Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Whitecage, Mark, alto and soprano saxophone, clarinet and alto clarinet, electronics, sound sculptures, composer; b. Torrington, CT, 4 June 1937. He mainly grew up in
Litchfield, Connecticut. His parents, Vincent Whitecage (1906-1969) and Mary Hricko Whitecage (1909-1947), both were born in Torrington, Connecticut and died in Litchfield, Connecticut. His father was a pianist. His siblings are Vincent Whitecage Jr. (born 1933), a trumpet player, Joan (married name Joan Momb) (born 1935), a vocalist/guitarist, Veronica (born 1941, died around 1979) and MaryLou (married name MaryLou Seaver) (born 1946)., married name MaryLou Seaver.
Mark began performing on alto sax at age 6 in his pianist father Vincent's family band along with his brother Billy and sister Joan. Mark got his union card at age 12, when he added tenor sax and clarinet to his arsenal, and throughout high school he honed his skills performing with a host of dance bands around Connecticut.
When he joined the Army in 1955 he continued to perform regularly with a quintet in a coffee house off the base in El Paso, Texas. It was in El Paso that Mark briefly met and played with Eric Dolphy, whose inspiration was pivotal in Mark's evolution from playing standards and bop toward finding his own voice on his instruments. Dolphy also turned Mark on to Zen Buddhism.
After the Army Mark returned to Connecticut, determined to work on developing his own thing. He rehearsed with local musicians interested in exploring improvisation - bassist Mario Pavone among them. He played in various clubs around the state and in New York City and worked in a studio recording backgrounds for Sire Records vocalists' for a couple of years. Then in the mid and late 1960's he did his first recordings with vibist Bobby Naughton on Otic Records, Nature's Consort and Understanding.
Throughout the 1960's Mark traveled to New York City more and more to hear the music in the clubs and to rehearse with other players he knew from Connecticut and who he was meeting on his trips to the City, such as trumpeter James Duboise, drummer Laurence Cook, and clarinetist Perry Robinson.
In 1969 Mark came down to New York City to attend John Coltrane's funeral and decided to stay. Perry Robinson was one of the first musicians Mark met after moving to New York, and Perry introduced Mark to multi-instrumentalist and composer Gunter Hampel. That introduction led to Mark's 10 year association with Gunter and his Galaxie Dream Band, which toured Europe every spring from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's. The Dream Band featured vocalist Jeanne Lee, and many other great musicians passed through the band, including Perry Robinson, Marion Brown, Jack Gregg, Toni Marcus, Enrico Rava and Anthony Braxton.
Also during this time Mark played for several years in bassist Saheb Sarbib's big bands and quartet. In 1979 the quartet toured France. The loft scene in New York was burgeoning during the mid and late 70's and Mark was an ever-present voice during those days. He appeared often at Environ, Sunrise Studio, the Brook, Center for the Exploration of Consciousness, Rivbea and Ali's Alley, meeting and playing with other forceful, creative players performing their music their way, outside of the club scene.
The lofts were also essential for modern dancers exploring improvisation at that time, and Mark was part of this scene as well. He was in musical groups working with the 1970's experimental dance pioneers Barbara Dilley, Mary Overlie, Nancy Green and Cynthia Hedstrom, and the groups Collected Works and the Construction Company. He also performed with the Darius Brubeck Ensemble when they performed live for the premiere of Murray Louis' Glances at the 1976 American Dance Festival at Connecticut College. The ensemble, which included Perry Robinson and percussionist Muruga, played the music of Dave Brubeck.
During the early 1980's Mark's close association with clarinetist Perry Robinson led to his working in Perry's clarinet project, Licorice Factory. Over several years the band performed in New York and featured some of the area's finest clarinetists, including Tony Scott, Kenny Davern, Eddie Daniels, Dewey Redman, and Gunter Hampel.
It was also during the 1980's that Mark, through his association with drummer Mike Mahaffay, the founder of Sunrise Studio and composer/performer with Jean Erdman's Theater of the Open Eye, met the sculptors Bernard and Francois Baschet who built elaborately beautiful sound sculptures. The otherworldly sounds and breathtaking designs of their sculptures influenced Mark, who enjoys working with his hands, to design and build his own sound sculptures. Mark formed a group, the Glass House Ensemble, to realize the music he created with his instruments, and the group performed from 1988 to 1997 at various venues in New York. Mark traveled to Europe with his sculptures in 1986 to do a solo tour in Switzerland and Germany.
The decade of the 1990's was a productive period for Mark. He toured and performed with a variety of bands and his recording output swelled with releases on CIMP, Cadence Jazz Records, Leo, GM Recordings and his own label, Acoustics. At the beginning of the decade Mark worked a great deal with pianist Michael Jefry Stevens and bassist Joe Fonda. They were part of Mark's group Liquid Time. Their CD was the first of a series of Acoustics releases that Mark and his wife, photographer/clarinetist Rozanne Levine, continue to put out.
Mark traveled to Europe several times with Michael and Joe as a member of The Fonda/Stevens Group, which included trumpeters Herb Robertson and Paul Smoker and drummer Harvey Sorgen. When Liquid Time's immensely talented drummer Peter LeMaitre died shortly before their Mark Whitecage & Liquid Time CD was released, Mark began forming a new series of duos, trios and quartets that he would continue to work with throughout the 90's and into the 2000's. He likes the trio format and has recorded and toured extensively with No Respect, Duval/Rosen/Whitecage and the Mark Whitecage Trio, his bands with bassist Dominic Duval and drummer Jay Rosen. The band formed in the middle of the 90's. Since 1998 the trio has toured annually in Europe, appearing at a number of festivals including Festival International de Jazz de Rive de Gier in France, Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon in Austria, Mediawave 2001 in Hungary, and Jazzfruehling in Kempten in Germany, among other venues.
Another trio Mark enjoys working with is his Hudson Bay Explorer's Club, which teams him with pianist Joseph Scianni and cellist Tomas Ulrich. When Dominic Duval introduced Mark to Joseph in the mid 90's, Joseph fit right in with Mark's musical cohorts. Mark and Joseph went to Canada in 1999 to perform as a duo at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival.
A larger band Mark writes for and plays in his Mark Whitecage Quartet. The quartet format took shape during Mark's two year tenure with Patricia Nicholson Parker's Improvisors Collective from 1994-95, and has included varied personnel such as Sabir Mateen, Tomas Ulrich, Jay Rosen, Dominic Duval, Chris Dahlgren and Joe Fonda. The Quartet was featured at International Festival Seixal Jazz 2000 in Portugal, the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in 1999, the Vision Festival in 1996, and did a U.S. tour in 1998.
Ever since Mark's late 1960's electronic explorations with Annette Peacock and Paul Bley, which included his performance on electric alto and tenor sax with Peacock and Bley at Lincoln Center in 1970, Mark has wanted to get back to the possibilities of electronic manipulation of his horns. He bought some effects pedals in the late 1990's and found that they gave him another avenue for compositional inspiration and added a host of sounds to his palette. He formed Electro! to perform with like-minded musicians such as Perry Robinson, Chris Dahlgren and Jay Rosen. Mark took his electronics on the road in 2001 when he toured with E-Jam in Austria, an experimental combination teaming Mark with guitarist/midiguitarist Armin Pokorn and turntablist Virgin Helena.
In 1995 Mark renewed his musical acquaintance with Anthony Braxton, whom he had played and recorded with earlier when they were in Gunter Hampel's Galaxie Dream Band. Mark joined Anthony's Quartet and performed with them in New York and Connecticut from 1995 to 1998. In 1996 Mark was one of the featured soloists in Anthony Braxton's opera, Trillium R.
And there is a project that brings Mark back to his roots in a family band -- he and his wife, clarinetist/alto clarinetist Rozanne Levine (born 1945) perform as a duo, RoMarkable. Their close association over the years performing in each other's larger groups, and the inspiration they provide one another, led them to form a touring duo. Their performances feature electronic manipulation of their horns alongside acoustic forays. RoMarkable toured the US in the summer of 2002, appearing in Chapel Hill, NC; Austin and Houston, TX; Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. They were also featured at the Converge series, Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, New Jersey in 2000.
Mark's children are twins Diana Levine Whitecage and Perry Levine Whitecage, born 1975.
Mark Whitecage and Liquid Time (with Dave Douglas) (1990); The Paper Trail (1995); Split Personality (1995); Caged No More (1996); Free For Once (1996); Consensual Tension (1997); 3 + 4 = 5 (1997); Moon Blue Boogie (1998-1999); Fractured Standards & Fairy Tales (1999); Mark Whitecage Trio Live on Tour in Tours, Vol. 2 (1999); Research on the Edge (1999); Common Ground (2001)
Short Stories (duets w/Michael Jefry Stevens) (1993); The Nu Band (2001)
Saheb Sarbib: Seasons (1981), Aisha, UFO! - Live on Tour, Live at the Public Theater, Jancin' At Jazzmania; Gunter Hampel's Galaxie Dream Band: Folksong/Broadway, Journey To The Song Within, That Came Down On Me - Live At Berlin Jazz Days, All Is Real, All The Things You Could Be If Charles Mingus Was Your Daddy, Celestial Glory; Perry Robinson's Licorice Factory: Licorice Factory; Bobby Naughton: Nature's Consort, Understanding; Mario Pavone: Sharpeville, Digit; Jeanne Lee: Natural Affinities (1992); Michael Jefry Stevens/Dominic Duval Quintet: Elements (1994);Scott Miller - Joe Fonda: Bottoms Out (1993-1995); The Fonda/Stevens Group: The Wish (1995), Evolution (1997), Live From Brugge (1997), Parallel Lines (1997); Joseph Scianni: Moon Flower (1997); Anthony Braxton and the Tri-Centric Ensemble: Trillium R (1997); Steve Swell Quartet: Moons Of Jupiter (1997); Dominic Duval's String Ensemble: State Of The Art (1997), Live in Concert (1998); Marshall Allen Quartet: Mark-n-Marshall: Tuesday (1998), Mark-n-Marshall: Monday (1998); Various Artists: CIMPhonia 1998 Part I (1998), CIMPhonia 1998 Part II (1998)
Cover story and interview, October 1997 Cadence magazine (USA)
Cover story and interview, October 1997 Improjazz magazine (France)
Outside/In feature on Mark and his Acoustics releases in Jazziz, January 2001
No Respect - Duval/Rosen/Whitecage with special guest Perry Robinson voted one of the Best NYC concerts of 2002 by All About Jazz-NY
Fractured Standards & Fairy Tales and Moon Blue Boogie- voted among the Top Ten New Issues of 2001 - Cadence magazine record poll
1997 Top 30 Musicians in the Cadence magazine Readers'/Writers' Poll
Caged No More CD voted among Tone Clusters' 1996 Top 40 and Cadence's
Top 30 Recordings of 1997
Mark Whitecage & Liquid Time CD 1991 Cadence magazine Editor's Choice and New Issues Record Poll winner
Split Personality CD voted among Tone Clusters' Top 40 Releases of 1998
Consensual Tension CD voted among the Year's Best Jazz Releases of 1998 by Artvoice
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