Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Egan, Mark, One of the premier electric bassists of contemporary jazz, Mark Egan has distinguished himself as an in-demand session player, valued sideman and respected leader in his own right. His distinctive fretless bass sound has graced countless jazz and pop albums as well as award winning movie and television soundtracks. A charter member of the Pat Metheny Group, he has played on multi platinum-selling recordings by Sting, Arcadia and Joan Osborne and has also recorded with the likes of Roger Daltry, Sophie B. Hawkins, Marianne Faithfull, David Sanborn and John McLaughlin and was a member of the Gil Evans Orchestra for 13 years.
On his latest as a leader, the 2-CD set As We Speak, Egan stretches out in a wide open trio setting with jazz guitar great John Abercrombie and former Pat Metheny Group band mate and Elements co-founder Danny Gottlieb on drums. Recorded at his Electric Fields studio, Egan's latest on his own Wavetone Records label is an ambitious follow up to 2001's Freedom Town. As the bassist-composer and Wavetone label head put it, "Freedom Town was based more on my compositions and orchestrations featuring such great musicians as Bill Evans and Lew Soloff, in contrast to a bass trio improvisation feature, which is what this new recording is all about. I wanted to capture an intimate as well as progressive side of my playing on a recording."
Egan says that his concept for this trio with Abercrombie and Gottlieb was in part inspired by Gateway, Abercrombie's acclaimed trio with drumming great Jack DeJohnette and renowned bassist Dave Holland. "When I started working on this project I was listening to the Gateway recordings and really tuned into that space from a compositional and conceptual point of view," says Egan, who studied bass with Holland in the mid 1970s. "I've been a big fan of Dave's since his days with Miles Davis and have closely followed his career since then, so it's just natural that I'd listen to Gateway. I really like their concept and the openness of that group, so I started writing a lot of songs with that framework in mind to fit this trio."
Over the last four years, the in-demand bassist has been a regular member of jazz guitar great Larry Coryell's trio, which includes drummer Paul Wertico. He appeared on Coryell's 2003 recording Tricycles (on which Egan composed the title track). In 2004, Mark toured North America, Europe and Asia with another jazz guitar icon, Pat Martino, and last year recorded with saxophonist and Elements band mate Bill Evans on his 2005 Grammy-nominated Soulgrass album along with banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Egan also appeared on pop star Cyndi Lauper's 2005 recording, The Body Acoustic. His playing on As We Speak represents a highwater mark in his recording career to date.
Born on January 14, 1951 in Brockton, Massachusetts, Mark began his musical studies on the trumpet at the age of 10, mainly through the influence of his father, an avid player. He continued to play the trumpet through high school in jazz bands, R&B groups, high school orchestras and switched to bass at age 16. In 1969, Egan enrolled in the University of Miami School of Music under the direction of Jerry Coker and also studied privately with the late, great Jaco Pastorius, whose influence remains with him to this day. "When I heard Jaco play it made me aware of the potential of the electric bass, particularly with regard to grooving and soloing. Jaco inspired another way of thinking about the bass and music."
While in Florida, Mark formed a band with fellow University of Miami students Clifford Carter (keyboards), Hiram Bullock (guitar), Billy Bowker (drums) and Phyllis Hyman (vocals). They came to New York in 1976 and soon afterward Mark toured with the Pointer Sisters, Deodato and David Sanborn. In 1977, he hooked up with another U of M schoolmate, guitarist Pat Metheny, and for the next four years toured and recorded with the Grammy award winning Pat Metheny Group, which also featured keyboardist Lyle Mays and drummer Danny Gottlieb. Egan subsequently worked with Flora and Airto, Carly Simon, Stan Getz and Jim Hall before forming the group Elements in 1982 with Gottlieb, saxophonist Bill Evans and keyboardist Clifford Carter. Nearly 25 years later, Elements remains one of the most potent and highly acclaimed contemporary jazz groups in the world with eight recordings to its credit, having racked up endless roadwork in over 27 countries. Their uncompromising live sound continues to be on the forefront of the jazz music scene.
While Egan continues to work with Elements, his solo projects represent a more personal side of his musical makeup. Mark's 1985 solo debut, Mosaic (Windham Hill Records) delved into adventurous territory on his exotic custom-made eight and ten string basses on which he rendered beautiful soundscapes over multi-layered musical textures. His followup, 1988's Touch of Light (GRP Records), displayed another facet of his creativity in which he pushed the envelope in more aggressive, upbeat fashion alongside his Elements mates Gottlieb, Carter and Evans. In 1993, Mark signed with Bluemoon Records and released the highly anticipated album Beyond Words, which again featured Gottlieb, Carter and Evans and also introduced to American audiences the famed Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta, whose sensuous bossa nova style and melodic compositions would take the music in a new direction.
Egan's passion and visionary approach to contemporary instrumental music led to the creation of his independent record label, Wavetone Records, which he formed in 1992. Dedicated to providing an outlet for creative music projects, Wavetone has to date released ten albums to critical acclaim -- Elements' Far East Volume I and II, Elements' Untold Stories, Egan's Mosaic, Joe Beck's Finger Painting, Jeff Ciampa's Signs of Life and House of Mirrors, the Jeff Laibson/Mark Egan/Danny Gottlieb project Trio, Egan's 2001 outing Freedom Town and his 2006 followup, As We Speak. In addition, Mark has realized his dream with the completion of is own state-of-the-art recording studio, Electric Fields. Designed by the highly acclaimed acoustical architect John Storyk, Electric Fields is equipped with a state of the art digital recording system and an array of vintage sound processing gear.
Mark continues to explore new sound territories through his extraordinary recording, composing and touring activities. His successful efforts as a musician, composer and producer keep him on the forefront of the contemporary music scene.