You are on page 1of 16


com Interview Series:

Mark Turner Interview

Falk Willis from interviews Tenor Great Mark Turner

Falk: Hi everybody! Im very glad to have Mark Turner on the line. And lets get
right to it. Welcome, Mark.
Mark: Thanks, hello. How are you doing? (laughs)
Falk: (laughs) Im good, so are the thousands of other people that listen now. No,
they dont, because were recording this in our living rooms. (laughs) But, if
you dont mind, Mark, just give us a little background how you even picked
the saxophone, and your musical upbringing?
Mark: I just had a fair amount of music in the house. My parents were music
lovers to a certain extent. They have a lot of eight-track tapes and cassettes
and records and things And most of it was R&B, and soul and stuff like
that. And they had a fair amount of jazz records, too. So I just loved hearing
that. And then, basically, there was school bands and things in elementary
through high school, and I just got involved in music from that. I started
playing clarinet in fourth grade. I was 10 years old and then I switched to
alto saxophone and started playing tenor somewhere in high school. You
know, I was in marching bands in elementary school and also, in high
school too. Concert bands, all those suburban type things. And jazz was a
pretty decent part of it from high school on. So that's how I got involved in
Falk: And how did you learn it? Mostly through teachers, or certain methods or by
yourself or
Mark: In high school and elementary school and all that, it was pretty much
through school. I didnt have private lessons until maybe halfway through
high school. Before that, it was just through the band instructor, to get basic
instructions on how to play the clarinet, and saxophone and that was pretty
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

much it But my first teacher was pretty very good. He only taught me a
little bit about saxophone playing but more about playing over changes,
playing tunes, and he was a big Lester Young fan and liked a lot of the West
Coast players. And I guess looking back, thats kinda how I got introduced to
that. I was into Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, people like that.
Falk: And, how would you say, formed whats a pretty distinct style of yours right
now? What were your main influences and how did you work on developing
your own thing?
Mark: You mean starting back then? Or just in general
Falk: Just in general. I mean, however far back you wanna take us...
In the beginning, did you really clearly try to emulate certain players and try
to sound like them? What was the process?
Mark: Id say the process was just trying to sound like other people. I knew as I
was doing it, I had no intention of doing that for the duration of my musical
life, career, whatever you wanna call it... But I definitely learned through
other people. Sometimes I think of it as an oral tradition. It often happens in
other musical traditions, African traditions, and Asian traditions, too. You
basically start finding a master. Master says do this and you start to
sound just like them, and copy them and eventually through doing it over
and over again, you eventually find, through following the master, something
of your own. But still youre very steep and grounded in the tradition that you
came from. So, thats the way I look at it. So I just wasnt worried about,
which I think some people are worried about, sounding like someone else. I
just went for it. So yeah, I got pretty deeply into sounding like other people.
And after awhile I got more into it, what that meant. In other words, what I
could get out of it? So, for example, Ive started finding out, Okay, who is
the most important? And I sort of had a hierarchy, sort of a tree. So maybe
there is a main person, and then through asking questions from older
musicians and my peers and reading about them, finding out who it was that
THEY checked out. And then I would check out recordings of so and so
who was influenced by so and so, and influenced by so and so and I kept
going further back. Sort of supporting whatever my main interest was.
Falk: And who were some of the people in that hierarchy tree of yours?
Mark: I think from the beginning it was, in terms of saxophone players and jazz...
the first records I had were the ones I was influenced by clearly. My parents
had a few John Coltrane records, I think they had Stardust, and they had My
Favorite Things. They might have had a few others and they had quite a few
Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt records. The ones where they played together in
a sort of tenor battles. And they had that record I think it was called Sunny
Side of the Street or something, the one with Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins and

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Dizzy Gillespie. They had Sonny Rollins The Bridge. They had some
Dinah Washington records. They had some other ones, too. But those were
the first saxophone records I heard, and those are the ones that I was
influenced by from the beginning. And then I got into Michael Brecker for a
while, like probably many tenor players do at some point. This was in high
school. Once I got to college, I kind of started deciding on okay, I get
started with so and so, so I pretty much got into Trane and everybody he
was influenced by. So, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins
and Sonny Stitt, and Wardell Gray. I might have said Lester Young already?
Stan Getz. So I started searching those guys out.
Mark: And then those brought me into other places. And I got more deeply into
any of those people that I mentioned earlier. And then I was studying with
George Garzone, so obviously I was influenced by him at the time. And I got
into Joe Henderson, too some records that I had been listening to. Also
I've been listening to a lot of Miles, various periods of Miles, so obviously
Wayne Shorter and then a fair amount of free players too. Ornette Coleman.
I also got pretty heavily into Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz. And by the time I
got into them, I got into transcribing other instruments, too, not just
saxophone players. So I got into Lennie Tristano, Keith Jarrett, 70s and up
into the 80s Anyway, its kind of a long story in terms of my transcriptions,
you get the idea though. Gradually, it just became wider and wider. It just
started from that one point and then, you know, seeing all these trees... I
then gradually just ended up checking out everything. Well, of course, with
my own personal aesthetic, what I like within various traditions. But pretty
much it became wider and wider over time, and more instruments, not just
saxophone. Bits and pieces of different types of music. Maybe transcribing
parts of pop tunes, or classical music. Whatever it is Does that make
Falk: Yeah, and how does that translate into today? Do you still practice a lot?
And if you do: if you have a certain amount of time, what would you spend it
on, for example?
Mark: Well, I still practice a lot, relatively speaking. But I have kids now, so Im
either dealing with family or Im dealing with music. I dont really hang out
too much. So, basically, if Im not doing that, Im spending time with music. I
dont really transcribe much anymore. I used to do it a lot. But I haven't
really transcribed extensively in maybe a decade, or at least several years.
So, basically, I spend a lot of my time on maintenance on the horn. And then
I have a list of things that I do. I spend a lot time on voice leading. Ive been
doing that for a long time. Starting from very simple to a more complex
version of working through voice leading. So there are various ways I do it.
Thats a big part of it. A lot of ear training that has voice leading involved
with it A lot of working with chordal voicings, I spend a lot of time on that.
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

And then developing lines from the voicings. And ornamentation, I spend a
lot time on that. And various mind exercises. So some of the stuff I
explained has to do with that. Within certain things I practice these mind
exercises. I might be playing certain times and not play or it might be certain
kinds of patterns, but Ill have a certain rationale for doing it. Kind of semimathematical. And then I have to work it out and theres certain ear
training things that are also sort of mind exercises, to keep myself nimble.
So a lot of what I do is a combination of doing something thats very known
and concrete. Some kind of exercise to follow that can be pretty strict. And
then the other side is something that is pretty open, pretty mysterious, and
allows for a certain amount of freedom and improvisation. So I kind of get a
flow of opposites going, so perspective, and looking at something very
closely. That's pretty much what Im doing...
Falk: And are those things that you developed yourself? Or are those regimens
that you learned from somebody else?
Mark: Its pretty much things that Ive worked out for myself, based on how I, over
time, figured out how I learn things. I have sort of tailored things that I
learned obviously from other people, things Ive read. But, basically, its
something that I figured out myself. Obviously like everyone else, through
the many things that you've learned from your environment.
Falk: Could you give us some specific example so that somebody could test this
for himself to just get the direction of this? If you had, lets say, a medium
level player who knows how to play tunes and solo over them to a certain
degree, and this person now has 2 hours of practice time per day What
would you recommend for them to try out? Just give them some stimulation
for new ideas
Mark: Something related to what I practice, for example?
Falk: Right. Lets say you would prescribe the 2-hour practice period for them...
Something they could try out... A specific exercise that they could do right
now after hearing what you say.
Mark: Okay. Well, for example for voice leading: there are a few versions, and it
gets pretty complex. But I would say one is you could just try something that
has voice leading and ear training in it. For example, take any tune, lets say
a standard. But its something that you know, that you have memorized, that
you have no doubt as to what the chords are and that you know for sure.
Not something thats kinds of vague, but rather something that you really
know. And then, start on any note, randomly. Just pick a note thats not the
note that you usually start on. In other words, not the key that you usually
play it in. Start playing the melody. So thats the first thing. Just be able to
play any melody from anywhere and any key without even thinking about it.

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Just do it. Then once you got that handled, then play the bass notes and the
melody together. Of course, if its a single line instrument, if thats the thing
that you wanted to do and play, youre going bar for bar melody-bass
notes, melody-bass notes, or vice versa. Or any combination thereof, so you
can start to hear the relationship between bass and melody. And then, as
you do it, then play melody, thirds and sevenths and bass. And when you
play the thirds and sevenths across, youre gonna have melody, third or
seven, vertically speaking, and bass at the bottom. So you wanna have the
thirds and sevenths moving smoothly and smooth voice leading. In other
words, that means: you dont wanna move anymore than a step. And in
some cases you may have to move more than a step but if you can avoid it,
you wanna keep it smooth voice leading as much as possible. So thats the
first thing and just go through that, so that you can do it without any
hesitations. Just keep doing it. In other words, its more difficult than it
sounds to do it without hesitation in any key, whatsoever.
Falk: Right.
Mark: So then, the other thing you wanna try is the same thing: melody, bass
notes, and pick just one note in the middle, so you basically have three
voices. The other one, its more or less 4 voices: melody, bass note and
then one note in the middle, smooth voice leading. Best to start with thirds
and sevenths. And then basically, you wanna keep as many common tones
as possible, this middle voice. Keep it completely smooth. And then the last
version... It gets more complex, but another version is: you do the same
thing, not with the melody, and go through bass notes... We already did
thirds and sevenths, but you could take the bass notes. And then, one
voice, just do diads, through the tune, and you can have the voice going in
upward motion or you can try the voice going in downward motion.
Whenever you need to move up or down, you should pick a consonant
interval. In other words, an octave, or a fifth, sixth or something like that, to
move up or down. Eventually, youre gonna exceed the range of your
instrument, so you wanna watch that. Anyway, so thats the beginning, and
to do that, in any key. If we keep going, the exercises get more complicated
and more difficult with the voices and all that.
Falk: Right. So this was nice and specific. And just to give our listeners a taste
where this could lead to: how far do you take this then?
Mark: I gradually add more rules. You know, it gets to a point where I will be
working with 3 voices, 4 voices and 5 voices. And youll always be keeping
smooth voice leading. It would take a long time to explain all of it...
Falk: It can be more abstract now. Just to give the concept.

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Mark: Yes. Maybe 1 voice is moving and more active than the others, while the
other ones are supporting voices. But basically what happens is, over time, I
find, it gets my ears to be much more specific and clear about harmony.
Because harmony is often, not always, but often in jazz, played in a very
vertical fashion as opposed to maybe a more horizontal one. Its not always
the case, but especially the way single line instruments tend to play it often.
So, it helps to really be aware of that harmony really comes from
intercepting melodies. And going all the way back to counterpoint and things
like that. It just helps you to be aware of, for example, if you are playing a
chord like lets say, G7. Now if you listen to it, you can hear maybe a big
band with strings or I would say, a singer with strings, or something like that
on some old record. And often, maybe its on a G7 chord but the strings are
playing, and for one beat, its Gsus, and the next beat, it's Gsus with a b9,
and next you have G7b9b13, blah blah blah The chord changes color
because of maybe one voice has been moving from one place to another,
changing the chord quality, just from the melody within one of the voices.
Maybe theres five voices or something like that. So, its not so much a
vertical issue as it is a horizontal issue as well. Now theyre both working
together. Anyway, as you get into that, I find my harmonic sensibility
becomes more subtle. I would be in a little bit more control of whats going
on, and also I find that harmony actually affects the rhythm, the rhythm
affects the melody We could push the time forward, backwards and make
it more simple. The beat will become larger or constricted, based on the way
you play the harmony So there are all those issues and things that come
up. And I find by doing voice leading exercises, and dealing with lines that
have to do with these exercises and things like that, it gives me a little bit
more insight into whats happening, between the rhythm section and the
soloist, and harmony in general, and rhythm, the mixture between those
two, the relationship between those two So anyway, I can keep going on
forever but hopefully you get the idea.
Falk: Yes, and I think this is also something thats obvious when I hear you play,
that youre a very dedicated student of the music and of the instrument, and
you pay attention to lots of nuances and details. Right?
Mark: Yeah, I do, absolutely. Yes. I try to, anyway. It takes a lot of work, but Im
into it. I enjoy it.
Falk: Do you teach? Do you give private lessons?
Mark: I do some. I dont have a lot of students. At this point, its just through the
New School. Maybe two, maybe three at the most, students per semester.
Sometimes people call me and wanna take lessons. But Im not teaching
formally at a school or anything.

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Falk: Are you open to people who come to New York or are in New York to
contact you for lessons? Just throwing this out there, in case somebodys
interested in that. And probably many people would be
Mark: Yeah. Sure. Im totally open to it. Definitely.
Falk: And how would they get in touch with you?
Mark: My email is best.
Falk: What are you listening to now, if you listen to music at all?
Mark: Its a good question. If I listen to music at all I kind of went through a long
period, maybe 5 to 6 years of not listening to that much music And now
I'm just starting to check it out more regularly again. What Im listening to
now is records that I play on... Mainly because I like the person's music or I
am just curious to see what happened on the recording. A lot of it is just
critical listening.
Falk: What are the 3 last CDs of other peoples music that you listened to, for
Mark: Jimmy Giuffre Western Suite, I was listening to that quite a bit And I
was listening to one that I was on: Jakob Bro. And the Cocktail Twins, which
I was listening to yesterday. Its a group from the 80s. I used to listen to
them in high school and college. I dont know what you call it. I guess you
could call it New Wave. (laughs) I dont know what else to call it, really. Its
pretty original.
Falk: And do you get to listen to a lot of your peers? When you play a festival and
you hear other saxophone players. Are there any new guys or for that
matter, more established people, that you enjoy listening to and who inspire
you when you hear them? Some people come to mind?
Mark: Yes, I mean, man, theres a lot of great saxophone players out there. But
yeah I do. I dont really get out that much when Im at home. But yeah, its
usually at festivals or Its hard to think of someone particular right now.
Same people everyone knows. Well, maybe not that young though.
Miguel Zenon. Ben Van Gelder, hes a great saxophone player, too. It
seems theyre the only ones that come up on the top of my head
Falk: Do you also notice or agree with that over the last couple of years the
general level of playing has increased, not just in New York but in many
other places? And tied to that, do you feel like New York is still the place to
be where some young aspiring musician has to be if he or she is really
serious about it? What do you think of that?

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Mark: I still think it is, in a lot of ways. Although I do agree, the level in general, at
least in terms of craftsmanship, is definitely rising very quickly. Theres a lot
of great musicians out there that can play. Great technique, great readers,
great craftsmanship, odd meters, styles all that stuff. They have a lot of
things together. I dont think you have to come here, but... somehow I still
feel it adds a certain amount of depth or seasoning to a musician, in a way
that it wouldnt, if you didnt come here. And I think it also depends on how
far you wanna go into the tradition of this music.
Falk: What do you mean by that?
Mark: Well, I mean for example, if you really wanna address things that
happened, lets say, before 1970, and see what that means. Especially, if
you wanna deal with, for example, standards swing. Even if you never
played it the rest of your life in a performance, but just in terms of something
to practice, to work out lets say, be nimble within this music, the
rudiments of the music. When I say rudiments, I mean, you might take
swing in terms of rhythmic vocabulary, learning tunes, being able to play
tunes in lots of keys, harmony, melody, all those things that have to do with
the craftsmanship and also the language, at least the basic language of the
music. I think a lot of that is here in New York. Just like for example, if I
wanted to study, for example, to be a classical musician, and I really wanted
to get with classical music from the French tradition or from the Germanic
tradition. I wouldnt stay in New York. You got to go to Paris. Or you got to
go to Vienna. Or you have to go to parts of Germany. I would wanna go
where the great masters lived, see their houses, you know You just do it,
even if you stay there only for two months. It's something in the air,
something in the food, something in the way people speak. All those things
have to do with the music. So, even if you just get a taste, itll change the
way you play.
Falk: Yes, definitely. You may even get to be roommates with the next Kurt
Rosenwinkel, like I was roommates with Kurt many years ago. (laughs)
Mark: Right, exactly. (laughs) I think thats important. And the other thing is, even
though there are great musicians everywhere, and its true, there are New
York, of all the cities that Ive gone to, still has the highest concentration of
people playing this type with music in the world, by far. And there are still
way more clubs in New York, and places to play, than any other big city, by
far. As far as Ive seen. Bigger than Paris, more than London, more than
Copenhagen, more than big cities in Spain, Italy, Japan. So at least to deal
with that just feel the intensity for a little while. It's good for you.
Falk: What I heard you say a little bit was also that you acknowledged that the
craftsmanship level is rising anywhere, but theres something else that

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

comes with being in New York, that you dont get in another place, in all
likelihood, right?
Mark: In all likelihood I mean you can but...
Falk: Beyond the technical skill
Mark: Yes
Falk: Just as you said, the intensity of the city, and that condensed high quantity
of very high-level players.
Mark: Yeah, exactly, high level players. And then just the culture, getting a taste
of where it comes from... Music has so much to do with the way people
speak. I mean, if you ever checked that out
Falk: Interesting.
Mark: Like the food that people eat, the smells, the air, all that kind of stuff. All
those little things influence culture, influence their art and music, their
architecture All that kind of stuff.
Falk: Good observation.
Mark: Something that you cant get by just staying in the countryside, shutting
your ass off
Falk: (laughs) Very true. Keen observation. Okay, so that was the New York
chapter. Who are the musicians you like to play with most, and why?
Mark: Whew! Lets see Should we go by instruments?
Falk: Whatever you want.
Mark: Ok. Well, you know, obviously, I love playing with Kurt Rosenwinkel. Jeff
Ballard, Ben Street, Larry Grenadier Lets see, who else? A lot of great
musicians Reid Anderson. Obviously, people that I had in my band in the
Falk: And what are the qualities of those musicians? Why do you enjoy playing
with them and develop long-term relationships with a lot of those people?
Mark: The main thing is, there is a stylistic similarity overall. And Id say, in
general, of all the musicians I love playing with most have sort of a
centered and wide view of music. So what I mean by that is, they, similar to
my own view, listen to a lot of different types of music. But within it, theres a
line and aesthetic, a clear view of what they like within all those different
types of music. And I think that view is kind of the equivalent to a straight
line through many layers of music. Does that makes sense?

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Falk: Yeah.
Mark: Even though, I think thats something thats true for this time anyway.
Falk: What do you mean by that?
Mark: I think theres a lot of information now and I think a fair amount of young
players have a certain aesthetic view that traverses many different styles. I
hate to say style because I actually dont believe in them, but I am just
saying it so that my understanding is clear. The difference of something
within Jazz, or within popular music, or West African drumming or whatever.
Within all those things, you can still find an aesthetic threat thats coherent
and thats of the same nature. And I think modern improvised jazz music
has that thread in it. Does that makes sense to some extent?
Falk: Yeah, definitely.
Mark: So aesthetically, those are the people that I feel most close to, as opposed
to some that may just decide the play one specific style or another. I feel like
you can find one style that has a lot of things in it, and it becomes its own
sound on its own terms. So thats one thing. The other is that, I think I like
playing with people that pay attention to details. That doesnt mean that they
play really technically specific or have a lot of chops or anything like that. It
just means that there are certain things that they feel are important about
their instrument, about the music that they play, and they make sure that
those things happen.
Falk: As you do.
Mark: I guess. I dont know. But I like to hear that. Someone thats really specific
about these are the cymbals I like to play... This is the sound I like to get.
This is the way I like it to sound with the bass player or guitar player,
whoever. This is my thing! Bam. Really clear about sounds, really specific
about sounds. I like people who are very committed to that. Thats the first
thing I notice, probably most people notice sound first. So that and then
the rest, the main thing is probably maybe a sense of I hate to use the
word artistry, but I cant think of anything else right now. But someone more
concerned about the... lets say overall picture, and, more specifically, the
relationship between the craft, and the artistic, emotional, psycho-spiritual
communication aspect. The part that you can think about and cultivate, but
not necessarily practice. You can definitely cultivate it. So Im interested in
people that cultivate that, and see how they can translate it into sounds. Im
very concerned about how they get those things across with a stick, with a
reed and saxophone or whatever. I feel that does take time. Practice or
cultivation. And it does take some thought and some energy. So I am really
interested in that. That, more than professionalism.

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Falk: Right, so now we go way beyond just blowing the horn or playing a lot of
Mark: Exactly. Or sound killer. I mean thats great. But Im really more interested
in someone whos gonna say, This is a statement, this is what I wanna do.
This is how its done. Whether you can say it or not in words, but I am
really interested in that. Thats why I like these people. Some of the people I
mentioned, and theres others that I feel equally great about that I didnt
mention. Because theres a lot.
Falk: Thats very interesting, great point. Do you enjoy playing sidemen gigs as
much as doing your own thing, if its the right kind of sidemen gig? Or, in an
ideal world, would you love to do your own band or collaborative unit, full
Mark: No, I like playing sidemen gigs. Actually, in an ideal world, Id like to do
both. I would never wanna just do my own thing. Way too isolated. I love
playing sidemen gigs. Sidemen things that I like of course. I like interpreting
other peoples music. And I always learn from it. It just keeps me nimble. I
dont think that I would get lazy if I played my own music all the time, but I
definitely would not be as nimble. In terms of reading and interpretation,
hearing what someone elses music is like and that influencing me.
So, Im into that. Im into both.
Falk: And think now its time to mention some of your own projects. Any records
coming up? Or what are your current own affairs or collaborative things?
Mark: Well I dont have a band of my own. I havent had one for maybe 7 years
or something like that. I might in the future. But the only thing that Im
involved in is this trio called FLY with Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard.
Falk: And is that a truly collaborative band or is it one persons initial idea, and
then a community project?
Mark: Its definitely a collaborative band. Its all three of us. Tunes by all three of
us, equal decision making and all that...
Falk: And obviously there is a long history there with Jeff and Larry. How many
years does that go back?
Mark: I think for Larry and Jeff, it goes back to high school for, somewhere in the
mid-80s or something like that.
Falk: And you and them?
Mark: Me and them, I think I met them in 1990. I mightve met Larry earlier but I
think the first time I played with them was in 1990, something like that. So,
thats the way back history. (Laughs) Im getting old.
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Falk: (laughs) Well, not that old. And currently nothing on the horizon in terms of
anything that has your name on it as the leader?
Mark: Oh, theres something on the horizon. Im almost done writing some music.
Ill just have to start playing some gigs around town and just trying to work it
out and see what band will work and all that stuff, and then maybe record it
later. I dont know when Maybe next year, maybe sooner if I get excited.
(laughs) Yeah, its about time. Im almost ready.
Falk: Okay, great. Im sure a lot of people are ready to hear it when youre ready.
(Both laugh)
Mark: So yeah, thats about it, really. Should I describe it? Or not?
Falk: Sure if you want to. If you wanna share with us. Great.
Mark: Well, it may change, but at this point, its just two horns and bass and
drums. Its really simple. I think part of it is just that, I was kind of into writing
for FLY. Basically, just writing two parts, and seeing how much I could get
out of that, writing wise. As opposed to making it just a blowing type of
session, which is also great. So this is just adding one more voice. Its kind
of a writing workshop for me when I think of it. And I just wanna see what I
can get out of writing for three voices, again, not worrying about having a
harmonic instrument at all. Thats a whole other adventure. So thats
basically it, and it maybe saxophone and trumpet. It might be saxophone
and saxophone. Im not sure. Probably not trombone but you know
something like that. And the tunes, it might be a really chilled out. Im not
sure if its gonna be super high-powered, but maybe. Its kind of like FLY, but
my band - and one more person. (laughs)
Falk: FLY plus one. Another insect.
Mark: Exactly. So, that's kind of the vibe right now. Well see what happens once
I get done with all of the tunes...
Falk: You certainly know how to build anticipation by keeping it vague. (laughs)
We are all curious now. Changing topics: How important is your gear for
you? Could you lose your saxophone and somebody gives you a good
tenor, and you could make it work? Or is it really critical what you play, in
terms of mouthpiece and horn?
Mark: I think its pretty critical for me. I mean, you know, I could make it work. The
question is, could I make it work well, with my aesthetic choice in terms of
sound and technique and all that. So, not just any horn, even if its an
objectively good horn, is gonna work for me. Im pretty into my gear, and
what it does, what it allows me to do, for sure.

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

Falk: Could you briefly describe what you use?

Mark: Yeah. I play balanced action tenors. Ive had one that I played for 13-14
years. And I just got another balanced action a little bit later. For saxophone
players, the one that I played for a long time is a 38,000 and the one I just
got is a 49,000. And theyre still down sections, but the 49,000s tend to be
more beefy, maybe even louder horns. But this one is nice because its a
little more beefy but still pretty subtle and pristine. The 38,000s are a little
more pristine and voice-oriented horns, thats the way I could put it. So,
lately Ive been playing on this 49,000, to see what it feels like to have
that much horn. But I will definitely go back to the 38 at some point, too.
Going back and forth. And then the mouthpieces... I played an older Link for
a long time, 7. I usually dont play very big openings. Actually, I never play
large openings, so anywhere from 6 stars. 7 stars is on the edge, in terms of
being too big. But sometimes I played some of that. So I have a 7, the one I
played for a long time. I had it refaced. I played it so much that the facing
got too long and it got too dead-sounding. But that ones working again, and
right now Ive been playing a Guy Hawkins and I really like those. They are
kind of Link-like, sort of a cross between a Link and a Brilhart. Its actually
the same as the old Brilharts, the old rubber Brilharts. So the inside is very
much like a Link, but its a little thicker sounding than the Link. So Ive been
playing that and and the one I have is about a 7 star. So thats what I have.
And I have been moving around with ligatures, but I tend to play pretty
traditional ligatures in general. Just brass or silver. Otto Link or Selmer
ligatures, very straightforward.
Falk: And reeds?
Mark: Pretty hard reeds. Its a pretty resistant setup. Not too much or super hard,
but I usually play Francois Louis or Roberto's Winds 5s. Robert's Winds are
a little harder. But generally, theyre probably similar to a Vandoren Classical
or Blue Box 4 or something like that. So theyre not super hard, but it's not a
medium setup in terms of hardness. It's a little bit resistant.
Falk: So, now were actually almost done with our hour here, but I just wanted to
ask you a couple of quick random questions, if you dont mind. Starting with:
What was your most challenging gig?
Mark: My most challenging gig? Wow. Im not sure what to say about that. Well...
Ill have to say one of them because they were challenging for different
reasons. Probably, one of the most challenging gigs I played was a gig that
was really difficult musically. In other words, the band, particularly the
drummer, was extremely hard to play with. He kind of really didnt have the
basics. So in a way, that was one of the hardest gigs I ever played. I hate to
say it that was probably one of the hardest and it was challenging in the
sense that I had to try and make it work. Oh yeah, it wasn't even so much
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

the drummer... the guitar player was very difficult. Im sure weve all been
in those situations before. (laughs) It's very difficult. The main thing was
just... I didnt want to be negative, so I just kind of tried to make this work,
talk to the cats and say listen we need to do this and this and this... trying
to make it work out. And that was probably one of the most challenging
ones. On a positive note lets say, for a gig that is more enjoyable and
challenging, Id say lets see, theres quite a few for different reasons.
Falk: Just an example...
Mark: Yeah, Im trying to think of one. Here's one I have only played with Paul
Motian a few times, but he called me to play this gig, and it was with a
bigger band, the Electric Bebop Band. And, actually, that was very
challenging in the sense that it was really fun but it was challenging
because there were very short solos. It was such a big band.
Falk: Was this at the Vanguard, with 3 guitar players and the two bass players?
Mark: Exactly, you know that?
Falk: Yes, I happened to be there.
Mark: Oh, okay. Yes, so it was just very challenging to be able to get in, make a
statement, blend with the band and make a statement quickly that means
something to you and that works. You dont have all year to get into it, and
warm up and peak and come down. You just have to get in there, kind of old
school which is really cool, as I think about that. So that was very
challenging. It was one of the most challenging gigs Ive done.
Falk: Its interesting when you ask people that question, in which direction they
go, and its totally different answers. I did an interview with John
Abercrombie the other day, and he said his most challenging gig was when
he played on a record date with McCoy Tyner, and he was so in awe and
there was just so much history there. So that was his most challenging
situations. It was not even the playing or the music, but it was just the
ambience of playing with this guy, who was on all those records, and he had
admired for so long and heard with so many people.
Mark: Yeah, exactly.
Falk: And, actually something else Any especially memorable incidents from
your musical life you could think of sharing?
Mark: Ill tell you one thing that was deep, and it also has to do with a gig, too. Its
another gig that was very difficult but profound and it had a huge effect on
me. I sat in once with Elvin Jones, and it was funny how it worked out and
all. It was a very bizarre situation. But anyhow, so I did. And one thing that
was just deep and hard was that the beat was so huge. I didnt realize that
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

before. It was just great to just feel it. I said, wow, so THIS is what its like.
And from that point on, I played maybe with a few other drummers and a lot
of them had that, too, in a way. Its really like a fathomless beat You know,
like they hit the drums, and it feels like their stick is going way down to the
ground, like a hundred feet You know what I mean?
Falk: Yeah.
Mark: So, I was like Wow! Whats happening? You know? So, it was hard to
even just play eighth notes in a medium swing tempo. I was like, Holy
sh*t It was like being in an ocean, you know? And I was like, wow, it has
nothing to do with metronomic time or anything like that This is something
else completely, and I was just trying to stay steady It was just hard
enough to just do that. In some sense I felt like, Okay, I just have to be
really strong in what Im doing and not really worry about relating to him so
much. Theres something deep about that, about being in your own spot,
but still youre relating to him on some other level. Its really heavy
Falk: Totally
Mark: Anyway, Id never felt anything like that. And that sh*t stuck with me like a
motherfu**er, you know? And what he said to me was really deep, too. And
it got me I had been working on my sound for long time, but it got me
working on my sound on a even deeper level. Thats my sh*t. I just do that
all the f... time. Sorry for the language. (laughs) I forgot what he said
exactly. But he said to me something like that I sounded like a bulldog.
(laughs) And he made some other comment about having a bite from a
bulldog. And I was like, hmmm It was just deep. I dont know how I would
have taken it, but I was like, Yeah, hes right. Basically, I took that as I
need to broaden myself my sound, my stance. It was too small and low.
I needed to become more majestic or wider, you know. So that just stuck
with me, rhythmically, sound-wise
Falk: Yeah. Very interesting You did it!
Mark: I made it.
Falk: Well, let me ask you one more quick question before we wrap it up. Just a
general thought on the current state of the music industry, how do you feel
about that, and jazz playing opportunities and recording opportunities?
Whats your outlook and how do you feel about it?
Mark: Well, on one end I feel really great about it, in a sense that its kind of
happening that the majors dont have a hold on everything as they did. And
in some ways, it allows more freedom and other people to be heard, who
may not have been able to be heard in the past, 10 years ago so. That part
is great. Obviously, the other aspect is CD sales and all that. I dont know
Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews

whats gonna happen with that and Im not that privy to all the details to that
stuff. But I dont know... Im kind of excited for the future, I have to say it.
Musically and in terms of the industry, too, it feels like a blossoming period
to me. Im pretty into it. A lot of freedom and open doors now, which is totally
happening. Im completely into it. And somehow because of the internet and
stuff, even though its a pretty wide world... in terms of the Jazz world now,
its kind of becoming a village again. I am into that. People building fan
bases and music starting from that level, as opposed to, in the 90s in
particular. Remember all that stuff? You know, all this media hype about
certain people, who may have been great musicians, but not necessarily
starting from the ground. Im pretty into that. So, it might be harder in terms
of money, but I dont know. Im not sure about that. It seems like its still
working out. People still are able to make things happen. On a more realistic
and tactile level. So, it feels good to me.
Falk: Its nice to hear that. Great so, thats it! Anything else you would like to add
before we split here?
Mark: No, I dont think so, except, you know, everyone have a great life, peace
be with you (laughs)
Falk: Yeah.
Mark: Thats it
Falk: Well, I think we covered a lot of different topics Nice. Thank you for taking
the time, Mark!
Mark: Sure.
Falk: And talk to you soon.
Mark: Okay, talk to you soon see you. Bye.

Check out for more FREE Interviews, plus fantastic

instructional videos & video interviews with the likes of Eric Harland,
Jerry Bergonzi, Kenny Werner, Oz Noy & lots more...

Copyright. Click Here for more FREE Interviews