Born: February 25 Primary Instrument: Guitar
The following are excerpts taken from an interview by Lyle Robinson for jazzguitarlife.com.
Mark Mosley is a working jazz guitarist out of Baltimore who shares with us his experiences from the early days to what he is doing presently to ensure his jazz guitar status keeps on. An enjoyable read!
JazzGuitarLife.com Interview with Mark Mosley: This interview was conducted via email November, 2004.
JGL: At what age did you first get into guitar playing and were you interested in jazz from the beginning or were there other musical interests before jazz?
MM: At age 11, other musical interests included learning how to play a convincing blues by copying B.B. King and listening to cats like Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and others through my dad.
JGL: What was the motivating experience to get you involved in this particular music and instrument?
MM: A trip in high school as a stage band member to the Montreux Jazz Festival exposed me to real cats like Oscar Peterson, Roland Kirk, David Fathead Newman, Les McCann, and others. Most of the school cats would rather talk about Maynard Ferguson,Bill Chase,and Don Ellis.
JGL: What kind, if any, formal training do you have (ie: lessons, schooling, that sort of thing). And how did these experiences help you get where you are today?
MM: As a one year music major at Towson University I had to take the normal ear training, Harmony, etc. Then I left to join the Army Band Field, more of the same formal training ensued. However, I would go on leave to NYC to go hear cats like Woody Shaw and Joe Farrell. I was smitten enough to shed for up to 10 or more hours a day, and not necessarily in an efficient manner, on a weekend around Army duties and they didn't warn me about like CQ duties. Just holding the guitar I believed helped to connect my soul with it too! I'm sure all this helped make me a determined artist to be.
JGL: What was your first guitar?
MM: A Kay acoustic followed by my first electric bought by me packing groceries in a military commissary in Edgewood Arsenal MD.
JGL: What are you playing now?
MM: A Gibson L-5.
JGL: Who were your influences on jazz guitar when you were beginning?
MM: Kenny Burrell, John M. of Mahavishnu, George Benson, Pat Martino, Eric Gale, and Wes.
JGL: Have they stayed the same or have they changed over the years? Who are you listening to these days (guitarists or non-guitarists)?
MM: Man, to include a few others is an understatement, now I love Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Billy Bean, Hank Garland, Allan Holdsworth, Eric Gale, Melvin Sparks, Jim Hall, Albert King, Albert Collins, BB, Hendrix (that live album with machine gun..oh my God!) I'll stop here. Everyone else who plays artistically, no technicians! Paco de Lucia! What a sound and fire! Peter Bernstein is nice -- I replaced him for a while with Lou Donaldson. He is a natural cat who doesn't get technical. I remember showing him the tune More... he stumbled like I would have, we don't have perfect pitch!
JGL: What type of musical situation do you enjoy the most and why (ie: trio, quartet, duo, solo, etc.)?
MM: Quartet is my forte ...I'm not a glory hound and love sharing the limelight with other bad cats. My original music sounds better with a pianist!
JGL: What type of guitar/amp sound do you prefer, or does it change from one situation to the next?
MM: Tube amps sound different than a solid state amp. I wish I could play acoustically and get the same effects sonic wise. Cats play too loud many times. I know the different schools of thought. One of my original Ballads named: Michelle(named after my wonderful wife) seems to shut people up. I had others tell me that!
JGL: You did a 17 day tour of Spain with legendary alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson's band which included Dr.Lonnie Smith on organ. Could you talk about a bit about that experience and how did you hook up with Lou?
MM: After sleeping in Melvin Sparks (guitarist) basement and jamming with him, I got a call from Lou. Man, I almost passed out. I'd heard him on records with Clifford Brown and Jimmy Smith. His telephone message was: This is Sweet Lou I need you to go on tour of Spain,etc.
JGL: What was it like playing alongside the great Dr. Lonnie Smith who has in the past played and recorded with such wonderful guitarists like George Benson and John Abercrombie? Did you feel like you had some big shoes to fill?
MM: Man, of course! However, being the Jazz spirit I am, I knew that wasn't the main concern. My question was what tunes is he going to play that I don't now know.
JGL: You have also worked with jazz heavy-weights Gary Bartz (saxophone) and Keter Betts (bass). How did these associations come about and what have you learned from these masters that you didn't know before?
MM: Well, Gary called me based on a tape I'd sent him containing some originals by me. He is a nice cat. He moved to N.J. right after I played with him. Keter heard me somewhere and called me to work with him a few times. I later hired him too! I really was not ready harmonically during those times. I would say that these cats are masters of Harmony which taught me I better get busy learning all I can about Harmony. This is an ongoing thing, but now I've learned enough to play with the info that I've gleaned over the years.
JGL: Which do you prefer: working as a side man, or working as a leader? And if you could comment on the pros and cons of both.
MM: Both, depending on the situation. Fortunately, I've grown to the point that I don't shirk responsibility as a leader or sideman. My ego is under control thankfully. Most of the greats are gifted and are gifts from God so I'm humbled to sometimes be put in the same category whether as a leader or sideman. The experience with the right people is more important then the pay with me often now. I seemed to get compensated fairly -- I can't complain. It's much better then working for minimum wage!
JGL: How many CD's have you released as a leader?
JGL: What was your experience as such getting that first CD out (from the initial idea to the final product)?
MM: It was unbelievable to me to have great cats like James King on Bass, Nasar Abadey, Charlie Etzel, Ron Johnson (the engineer)- donate their time/resources to help me (God will provide a way).
JGL: In your bio it mentions that you had enlisted in the US Army and that you played in the US Army Band Field. Could you talk a bit about this experience and how has it affected your musical journey?
MM: Man, I've been lucky to have had experiences living in Asia, Europe, around the U.S because of the Army. I think my global perspective has affected my Jazz music to the point. I have something for every one's level of awareness. I only work as a leader with some of the best who share philosophical similarities. They possess that elusive quality, common sense!
JGL: After leaving the Army you pursued your Jazz career in Germany as the leader of your own trio. How did you find living and working in Germany and what, if any, differences did you experience working in Germany as compared to working as a jazz guitarist in the United States?
MM: There appears to be a greater appreciation for musicians in Europe.
JGL: I know that you now teach in the Baltimore City School system and that you have dedicated a lot of your time to working with inner-city youth. That's a wonderful use of your time and I applaud you for your efforts. Keep up the great work.
MM: Thank you!
JGL: How do you handle working as a teacher while trying to develop and maintain an independent jazz career?
MM: Getting up at 4:00 am to exercise, not eating lunch, practicing until bedtime on a regular basis.
JGL: What are the struggles, if any, inherent in such an endeavor?
MM: My commitment to our youth, as well as playing jazz to my fullest potential is often a balancing act.
JGL: Given the choice, what would you be happier doing or are both careers equally fulfilling?
MM: I find that both careers are equally fulfilling and am thankful to have the opportunity to do both.
JGL: Do you teach privately and how can interested students get a hold of you for private study?
MM: Yes, I can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
JGL: From the little I know about you, you seem to be very disciplined and driven in your quest for becoming a professional Jazz Guitarist. In fact, in a local newspaper article about you, you are quoted as saying: Time is valuable and should not be wasted. After you have identified your dream, you must walk in the direction of your dream every minute of the day. You must keep your mind and body physically fit. You cannot allow things that conflict with your goal, get in your way. Could you expand on this philosophy of action?
MM: Yes, 'Goodness' is manifested all around us, conversely so is evil! We must stay prepared to fight, run away, run to, speak up when not popular but when necessary, and be prepared to make changes in regards to our individual welfare and the welfare of our youth!
JGL: Have you found the pursuit of becoming a Jazz guitarist what you originally thought it would be or have there been surprises along the way?
MM: Just like I'd imagined. It mirrors life: full of joys and disappointments.
...despite his more delicate touch, Mosley is a traditionalist, a hard-swinging blues player...He’s also an idealist; Mosley will tell you as he plays that he believes in spreading jazz because it’s the most perfect representation of democracy...
~~ Michael C. West, Washington City Paper, October 2007.
Baltimore Jazz Guitarist Mark Mosley’s debut CD simply titled Mark Mosley [The CD has since been retitled Mark's Mood, after Mark's compositon of the same title] is a really nice listen as he introduces the first time listener to his bluesy-jazz improvisations and song writing skills. In fact, five out of the six tunes on the CD are written by Mosley leaving just one standard “The Girl From Ipanema."
This self-produced and for the moment, self-promoted CD is a nice mixture of straight ahead and blues infused tunes that had my foot tapping from the first bar to the last. Mosley can definitely write very memorable (hummable) tunes that lend themselves well to his particular style of guitar playing. In particular, his straight ahead compositions, “Mark’s Mood” and “Legacy”, which feature some very nice melodic improvisations from both Mosley and pianist Charles Etzel. Mosley’s inclusion of a jazz-blues tune showcases some down and dirty blues lines, double-stops, and a healthy vibrato that adds an authentic color to his blues playing. Fans of Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell should be quite pleased with this release.
There’s also a sensitive side to Mosley as evident on the ballad “Michelle”. This is short lived though as the tune goes into a swinging four-to-the-bar blues (a la Freddie Freeloader) with some more vibrato laden bent string blues playing. The tune then shifts back to the ballad as Mosley states the sweet melody again before concluding the tune.
The only standard on the CD, “The Girl From Ipanema”, gets a nice reading as Mosley and Etzel lay down a two-chord vamp intro to get the tune rolling. Mosley keeps it more straight ahead on this tune as he plays very melodically through the changes before giving the “floor” to Etzel who plays a nice chorus before ending the tune.
The “odd-man-out” on this CD seems to be the last tune titled “Horizon”. It is a very radio-friendly pop-jazz tune that features all electronic instruments under Mosley’s smooth, round tone. It reminded me of Benson’s “Breezin'” period, and while different from the other tunes on the CD, it still had some very tasty playing by Mosley, and given a full CD of these types of tunes, might prove to be a successful venture for Mosley.
With the exception of the last tune, Mosley gets some very nice musical support from the rest of the band. Apart from pianist Etzel, bassist James King and drummer Nasar Abadey provide Mosley with a strong sense of time and swing that is the foundation of any enjoyable listening. They don't disappoint.
As a self-produced effort, this is a very promising debut from Mark Mosley.
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Baltimore County, MD
Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Rates: $50.00 per hour, available on Sundays.
Over 20 years of world-wide Army Band experiences.
Multi-instrumentalist on trombone, bass, guitar, and vocals.
Attended Towson University (Maryland) as a music major - 1 year.
Briefly attended Berklee College of Music (Boston).
B.S degree in Elementary Education plus graduate credits.