Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1949, Mark comes from a musical background, as his father was a professional musician (drummer) who played with Benny Goodman for a time in the ‘40’s. At the age of eight, Mark was given a clarinet and lessons with a wonderful teacher by the name of Bill Schlagel, who emphasized the importance of proper technique and sound. At age eleven, Mark took the next step in his evolution, saxophone, and thus began his life-long love affair. Immersed in the sounds of the big bands enjoyed by his father, intrigued by the more modern sounds of bebop, cool and hard-bop records his sister played around the house, his dedication to pursuing a life in music was cemented.
In 1962, his family moved to Miami, Florida, where he began playing professionally at age 14. On Miami Beach, he had the opportunity to play shows with popular acts, including Tony Bennett, Sonny and Cher, Bill Cosby, Ann-Margret and Sammy Davis, Jr., with seasoned musicians. He was for many years the youngest guy on the bandstand, all the while pursuing his desire to play all styles of jazz. As a high school student, he studied with James Casale (co-author of Patterns for Jazz with Jerry Coker.) After high school, Mark attended the University of Miami, enrolling in Jerry Coker’s Jazz Studies program. Studying with Jerry and pianist Vince Maggio had a profound effect on him, as did sitting in with Ira Sullivan since the age of 16. These master musicians provided him inspiration and encouragement, as well as invaluable education in the jazz idiom.
Mark was fortunate to have had the incredible experience of working with legendary baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan while he was artist in residence. While in college, he recorded with the likes of Dr. John, Wilson Pickett, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, and the Bee Gees. After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies, he received a call from Maynard Ferguson inviting him to join his band in New York. After three albums and three years touring as featured soloist and musical director with Maynard, Bob James beckoned, and he became of member of the “James gang.” Bob signed Mark to Columbia Records, beginning his solo recording career. “Serpentine Fire” and “One Good Turn” both sold very well, while he toured for the next six years as a featured member of Bob James’ band. Mark’s tours with Maynard and Bob found him playing jazz festivals and concert halls around the world.