Born: March 1, 1955 Primary Instrument: Guitar
“Post-adulthood” is the place that jazz guitarist Mark Guest now hangs his hat. “Don’t get me wrong, raising my kids was huge for me, but now that they’re grown and gone, well… life goes on!” says Guest.
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Mark was actively gigging in the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans region. After Katrina, Mark’s music career began taking center stage in his life. “Before the storm, I had a day job in public finance, enough jazz gigs every week to keep me happy, a nice home near the beach, I lived in an interesting arts-oriented community, and had New Orleans nearby. When Katrina wiped us out, all that changed”, says Guest. Mark’s home, most of his guitar collection, and much of his community were destroyed by the hurricane. “After the storm, I had invitations to play in venues literally around the world. My wife and I planned to take a portion of our homeowners insurance money and follow the gigs around the world for a year, or two.” They didn’t count on an insurer that did not want to honor their claims until two years after the loss. Now Mark’s performances are booked on the quality of the music, not what he calls the “Katrina Factor”.
Mark has been a popular addition at jazz festivals and in venues from the Gulf Coast to the Eastern Shore of New Jersey. Now residing in Asheville, North Carolina, he happily travels to performance venues promoting his 2008 CD, (Why We’re) Happy Together. “We decided that Katrina gave us an opportunity to change our lives for the better, and that’s what I’m doing. Playing this music for appreciative audiences is such a fulfilling element of my life that, in some ways, I’m grateful for the alterations that Katrina brought” claims Mark.
Raised in Toronto, Canada, Mark was a fan of jazz early on. He remembers, During the early 1970's I became a teenaged 'jazz snob' and regularly hung out listening to jazz players like Lenny Breau, Ed Bickert, Sonny Greenwich, Don Thompson and Terry Clark. I also was exposed to the avant-garde/free jazz scene that was happening at the time. It was a real eye-opening experience to play with guys like Al Greg, who was pretty far out there in the free jazz world. While largely self-taught, Mark has studied with noted musical luminaries such as Toronto guitarists Lenny Breau, Lorne Lofsky, and New Orleans guitarists Phil DeGruy, and Hank Mackie.
Mark can be found playing solo, in duo settings in the Mark Guest Jazz Duologues (with various accompanists, including bass, piano, tuba, sax, voice, and flute) and group settings ranging from trios to sextets. While remaining firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, Mark brings unique takes to non-standard repertoire as varied as the 1960s’ Hollies’ Bus Stop to blues icon Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train. “Music has been a wonderful part of my life”, says Guest. “I look forward to many more years of great music.” And so should you.
Mark is an endorser for, and happily plays the wonderful Ribbecke Halfling guitar.
Noted jazz critic George Kanzler graciously provided liner notes to the (Why We're) Happy Together CD, a project he calls “an impressive album.” He wrote, in part, “He’s a guitarist who lets his solos unfurl out of the tunes he’s playing, songfully, with a mellow tone from his Ribbecke Halfling blue guitar. His solo improvisations reference the melodies, enhancing rather than abandoning them as his imagination takes wings on the frets. Whether plush chords or ringing single notes, his solos tend to trace a definite narrative arc, a strong melodic thread weaving through their harmonies and rhythm.”
Esteemed NYC jazz guitarist and educator, Dom Minasi says it this way. “Your chord melody playing is beautiful. The real essence of a great jazz musician is not how fast he can play, but how well he can play a ballad and Mark your ballad playing tells it all.”
Internationally known guitarist and educator, Robert Conti, wrote, “I just listened to your audio clips. As you might imagine, I've seen and heard it all in my career of almost 50 years. Bravo, my friend, you speak very well the musical language that I understand! Be proud, as it doesn't get any better than what I heard on your clips! Good luck and much success to you!”
Craig Klein, (trombonist for Bonerama, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Harry Connick, Jr.) sent this note. “The CD came today and I loved the cover so much I put it right on. Man, I’ve got to tell you that I really like it. The tunes are done very tastefully and your tone is warm and has a beautiful ring to it. You sound fantastic and I really mean it. Keep up the good work. You make me want to do another solo one. Thanks and congratulations on a wonderfully swinging recording.”
(Why We're) Happy Together
Mark Guest Music
Tracks: This Tune Needs a Title; Emily; There is No Greater Love; Happy Together; My Romance; Out There; Mardis Bossa; Tenor Madness; Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans.
Personnel: Mark Guest, guitar; George Mesterhazy. piano; Ian Bracchitta, bass; Sonny Thornton, drums; Frank Southecorvo, alto sax; Richard Graham, percussion.
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students