Jun 27, 2014
Thirty years has now passed since a group
of young jazz musicians were tagged with the title “The Young
Lions”, and released a series of albums and performances that
helped change the direction and flow of jazz. Mark Whitfield would
have to be near the top of the Second Wave of Young Lions, along
with Christian McBride, Carl Allen, Tim Warfield, Benny
Green, Marlon Jordan and Roy Hargrove, all of whom appeared with
him as The Jazz Futures in a live Newport Jazz Festival recording
Whitfield had graduated from Boston's prestigious Berklee College in the Spring of 1987, having studied composition and arranging as well as all styles of guitar performance. Upon graduation, he returned to his native New York to embark on a career as a jazz guitarist that afforded him the opportunity to collaborate with the legendary artists that first inspired him, including Hammond B-3 masters Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith; Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine and his greatest teacher and mentor, George Benson.
Along the way, the New York Times dubbed Whitfield "The Best Young Guitarist in the Business" and in September of 1990 Warner Bros. released his solo debut, The Marksman. The success of this release has led to a recording career that has produced 14 solo projects to date and a myriad of collaborative efforts with a kaleidoscope of different artists in recent years; Sting, D'Angelo, Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, Lauryn Hill, and Chris Botti.
In September of 2005, Mark Whitfield accepted the invitation to join the faculty at his alma mater. His recordings have been sporadic since then, having not released a CD since his CD tribute album Songs of Wonder. However, recent appearances onstage with the Dave Matthews Band have shown that he has not missed a lick in that time.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Whitfield was tabbed for the guitar chair in the Newport Now60 Band, touring through the Festival circuit this summer. Led by clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen, the ensemble features vocalist Karrin Allyson; five-time Grammy- winning trumpet wizard, Randy Brecker; guitarist Whitfield; and pianist Peter Martin; with Clarence Penn on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass. The Rochester, Montreal, Ottawa and Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival all have them on their lineups for late June gigs, and (of course) the Newport Jazz Festival has them on tap for August.
Podcast 435 is my conversation with Mark, as he talks about the Now60 Band, his upcoming projects, and his great joy to be working with his son, Mark Whitfield, Jr., an up-and-coming jazz drummer. Musical selections from the Whitfield catalog are featured, including "Little Digi's Strut" from The Marksman, and two tracks from Patrice - the solo "We'll Be Together Again" and a funky tribute to his former boss, "Brother Jack".