Mark Jones is one of the best kept secrets in the music world. A reclusive artist who rarely performs in public, or on recordings, Mr. Jones is one of the few contemporary musicians who possesses a completely original piano style and has authored a new book of truly memorable, engaging compositions that serve as new standards for improvisation, as well as having composed various classical works, music for theater, and has taught in universities and privately.
Originally from Cleveland, his musical roots are in the blues. He took piano lessons in his youth after displaying an ability to play his sister’s piano lesson after hearing it from another room. He performed a concert at the Cleveland Music Settlement. Despite this talent, Mark was far more interested in sports and quit the lessons until at age 16, when he became infatuated with the blues. He took a couple of piano lessons at Bill DeArango’s studio, but his father wouldn’t pay for anymore, so he became self-taught after that not only on piano but on harmonica. He and friend Darryl Berk formed the Mo Schwartz blues band while in high school, and they played a few gigs around town. He had an opportunity to jam with Junior Wells in Ann Arbor, Glenn Schwartz in Cleveland, and play harp for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, who got a real kick out the precocious kid.
Mark also hung around with and saw as many blues legends as possible, most of whom are no longer alive. His picture appears with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf in Wolf’s biography. In his first year of college, at the University of Miami, he bought his first real guitar, and worked on blues, pop and especially country rock. The next year, he transferred to Kent State University, where he became very interested in jazz after hearing records by John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, Oscar Peterson, Pharoah Sanders, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell and others. Being primarily a classically trained painter, Mr. Jones decided to attempt to translate his abstract visual stylings, and the process involved in its creation into sound. While still at Kent State, he formed the Cleveland Art Ensemble with some friends and other musicians to perform works by Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Larry Coryell, Joe Farrell and originals by Mark. He taught himself piano, guitar, arranging, and studied Indian ragas and African rhythms.