“I am always studying music through listening to other musicians’ recordings and checking out what they do. Music is a never ending source of inspiration and there is always an opportunity to learn something new. There are a number of bass players that have been an inspiration to me over the years such as Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown and Michael Moore”
This is what bass player and composer Mark Wade told Jazz It Out in an interviewfrom New York.Mark was born in Livonia Michigan which is a suburb of Detroit. His family is from Wisconsin. As a young child he moved around the upper Midwest of the United States. He lived in Michigan, South Bend Indiana, southern Tennessee, outside of Cleveland Ohio, before moving to New Jersey when he was 8-years-old. “Otherwise, my life was similar to that of most kids”, he said.
Mark did not play any music until he turned 14. He started out as an electric bass player. At that time most of his friends were getting into playing the guitar. “My friends suggested I start playing the bass since everybody else was already learning guitar. I gave it a try and I was hooked from the start”, he told Jazz It Out. His first interest in music was rock and was a huge fan of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. After examining musicians and their influences, he went back in time to see where this music came from, which led him closer to jazz music.
“Leaving high school, I knew I wanted to go to college and study music professionally. I enrolled at New York University where I studied with great bassists like Mike Richmond”, Mark said. The institution also exposed him to some of the best teachers and players in the business. “Studying with Mike Richmond gave me excellent education in playing the bass, playing the music in general, and how to be a professional on and off the bandstand”, he recalls.
He also got to work with pianist Frank Kimbrough whose music is still a big influence in him. Mark also studied composition with Mike Holober who helped him get started as a composer and develop a sense of individual writing style. The music of Miles Davis had a huge influence on Mark. “All the difference in various periods of his playing were so amazing to experience, particularly his quintet in the 60’s”, he added. He strongly believes that was the period where Miles played and recorded his best music.
It was in the early days of his career as a musician that Mark played with Tedd Firth, a pianist that has developed a great reputation as a player, accompanist and arranger in New York. He also played with drummer Dan Weiss who has gone to do great things in the jazz world. In both experiments, Mark was struck by their focus and dedication to practice and absorb music. They were very professional and committed to playing at the highest level.
When he decided to form his own band in 2013, he did not hesitate to approach pianist Tim Harrison and drummer Scott Neumann to form the Mark Wade Trio. “Tim and Scott are two people that I had been playing on and off with for a number of years in someone else’s band. I knew that I liked their musical approach, and that they were familiar with me and with one another, which was a good foundation to start putting together a band”, he told Jazz It Out. When the band was formed, Mark was not sure if they would record an album.
The Mark Wade Trio released its debut album “Event Horizon” in 2016. Mark recalls that the band had about four or five performances in a period of a year and went to the studio. “We spent two days in the studio recording the 9-track album”, he recalls. One of the reasons he decided to form the trio is because “small groups like trios allow each player to have his individual moments as well as create flexible and fluid feel with the ensemble play”.
Critics responded to “Event Horizon” in a tremendously positive manner. The release garnered over 50 reviews over the period of a couple of months both in US and internationally. It was picked as one of the best albums of the year by Jazz StationRecords, AXS Magazine, and Jazz FM in London. “As a result, I was voted one of the top 10 bass players of 2016 through DownBeat Magazine readers poll”, sounding very excited.
“Moving Day” is the second album by the Mark Wade Trio that was released in 2018. “The title of the album comes from the fact that I have moved about 14 or 15 times over the course of my life. That has been one of the more unique facts about my life. Recording the second album was a fun experience”, he told Jazz It Out. As with the debut album, the band spent about two days in the studio recording the nine tracks. The trio had just completed a number of concerts before the going to the studio.
Seven of the tunes are Mark’s own compositions with the exception of “Another Night in Tunisia”, a Dizzy Gillespie composition and “Autumn Leaves”, a tune composed by Joseph Kosma. Jazz It Out’s favourite track from this album is “Midnight in the Cathedral”. The great sound of the percussion in the tune cannot be ignored. The understanding between the trio is so evident in the manner pianist Tim Harrison and drummer Scott Neumann approach this particular song. When Mark on the bass takes a more leading role, the background sound of the piano completes the beauty of this tune.
After the release of “Moving Day”, Mark was named as one of the top bassists of 2018 in the DownBeat Magazine readers poll. “It was a tremendous honour to be included on the ballot for voting for the readers poll so being selected in the final group was a wonderful thing. The names on that list were all my favourite bass players who I listen to on recordings all the time”, he told Jazz It Out. The album was also selected as the best album of the year for 2018 by Something Else Reviews. It was also picked up as one of the top albums of the year by Sammy Stein of the JazzJournalists Associationand by HI FI Trends Magazine.
When asked how easy or difficult it is for jazz artists to get recognition in the US and New York in particular, Mark said: “It is very difficult to be recognized as a jazz artist here due to the tremendous level of competition. New York City has the finest jazz players in the world. There are so many musicians who are wonderfully talented and play great music, so getting attention is a tall order”. Despite the success of his studio recordings, he still works extremely hard to stay in the forefront of people’s minds.
Mark also acknowledges that creating your own unique sound and melody as a jazz artist is not easy. He firmly believes that having a unique identity and sound is one of the most important things any artist or ensemble can have to get attention from the jazz audience. Lots of musicians play great and they are yet to master the art of sounding unique. “Because the trio has been together for a number of years, we’ve been able to develop our own sound and identity which helps to separate us from other groups”, he said.
Mark Wade Trio performing a tune entitled The Storm
Besides being leader of the trio, Mark often works as a freelance bassist in New York. He plays in various other bands and also in projects that call for electric bass. “In addition, I play classical music as well. I am the principal bassist of the Bronx opera here in New York”, he told Jazz It Out. Wade is also on the jazz faculty at Lehigh University and bass teacher at the Diller Quaile school on the upper east side on Manhattan.
He has been hard at work making music for his next album. “The theme of that album will be the music that has inspired my career thus far”, he said. Wade will be showcasing some original compositions that are based and inspired by the music of composers that have always played a great influence in him. His fans can expect the recording to be released in the spring or summer of 2020. Despite not being exposed to a lot of South African jazz artists, he is familiar with the music of Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim. “South Africa is a part of the world I have been to and would love come visit someday”, he concluded.
His Facebook account is Mark Wade and his Twitter handle is @markwadebass. Visit his website www.markwademusicny.comto learn more about him and his music.