Mark Soskin: Creating An Ever-Hopeful Day
"At that point, I really got seriously involved in it. A lot of intense practice, a lot of intense playing. Ultimately, I got itchy to be out there playing. I left the school and moved to San Francisco.
"I was fortunate to be out there at a time when things were really happening; this was 1974-81," says Soskin. "The music scene was great. The recording scene. All kinds of music was happening. There were musicians like Tony Williams living there. Joe Henderson was a neighbor of mine; we played together. Fantasy Records was going strong there. I got pretty involved with Fantasy. Orrin Keepnews was the house producer there at the time. I was doing all kinds of local stuff. I played a lot with this group Azteca, which was put together by Pete Escovedo and his daughter Sheila, who became Sheila E. That was a great Latin jazz group, and that got me involved with a whole bunch of different people and also playing Latin jazz, which I still love to this day."
Keepnews brought him to Sonny Rollins.
"That was one of the great experiences of my musical career. It happened to last for about 14 years. It was a long great gig. That was really my heavy schooling, I'd say. It was just a joy to be playing with Sonny for all that time. We did a whole bunch of records together, traveled all over the world. I was treated very well as a jazz musicianthe best.
"That was very important. Even before then, my name was getting out there via the Bay area. That's what led Orrin Keepnews to hook me up with Sonny, because Orrin had been checking me out for some years. Of course, if you're on such a high-profile gig as Sonny, people are going to have their ears perk up. And that's a fortunate thing, which, I must say, doesn't exist so much today. There aren't too many people left like Sonny, or even those kinds of bands. At one time, Sonny and people of his generation would play in New York for months at a club. That's how a lot of those great groups got to play such great music. Thelonious Monk and Miles. Today it's a different scene, so it's a bit harder to get your thing going and keep bands happening. I was definitely fortunate to be in that situation where it was really high-profile."
Since the days with Rollins, Soskin has remained busy, playing, composing and teaching at the Manhattan School of Music. "I did a duo record a while back called Five Lands (Cinqueterra) Different Duos (TCB). That was with five different people doing two tunes of mine apiece. That was Joe Locke, Walt Weiskopf, Erik Friedlander on cello, Harvey S and Abercrombie. I did a quintet record not that long ago called 17 (TCB), with Tim Hagans, Billy Drewes, Jay Anderson and Matt Wilson. I've managed to record fairly consistently and with different labels."
The changes in the music industrymajor labels losing interest, the collapse of Tower records, independent labels, artist-owned labels, the Internetall has had its effect on Soskin, like everyone else. Like most talented artists, he's been able to come through it.
"Is it hard? You always have to keep pushing artistically and out there in the business of the music world. You have to keep being out there. It's definitely important to have a fresh recording every now and then ... There's all of these changes, but I've been fortunate to stay on the scene and keep recording and keep performing. Hopefully, that will keep going on."
Soskin continues to listen to his idols, as well as keep up with younger players that are on the scene. But he won't stand still, and his mind moves to other projects, even while the current recording is on the shelf.
"What I'd like to do some time in the near future is something larger, a larger orchestration. Whatever that is going to be, I'd like to mess around with some different instrumentation. Now I'm thinking a larger scenario for me. Keep exploring arranging possibilities, sound, extras. I'm always looking to challenge myself, that's for sure.
"I have to keep things fresh. To me, I look for, thrive on, the challenge. I like having projects that really kick me to come up with some new stuff. That's important to me. Not just what came before. I'm always looking toward the future with that."
Mark Soskin, One Hopeful Day (Kind of Blue, 2007)
Soskin McCaslin Gisler'n'Hammer, One (TCB, 2006)
Mark Soskin, Homage to Sonny Rollins (White Foundation, 2003)
Mark Soskin, 17 (Seventeen) (TCB, 2001)
Roseanna Vitro, Conviction: Thoughts of Bill Evans (A Records, 2001)
Mark Soskin, Five Lands (Cinqueterra) Different Duos (TCB, 1998)
Sonny Rollins, Here's to the People (Milestone, 1991)
Herbie Mann, Caminho de Casa (Chesky, 1990)
Sonny Rollins, Falling in Love with Jazz (Milestone, 1989)
Sonny Rollins, G-Man (Milestone, 1986)
Mark Soskin, Rhythm Vision (Prestige, 1979)
Sonny Rollins, Don't Stop the Carnival (Milestone, 1978)
Billy Cobham, Alivemutherforya (Columbia, 1977)
All photos: Courtesy of Mark Soskin