Jazz guitarist /composer Mark Kleinhaut has been playing guitar since he was nine-years-old; when he converted his sister’s folk guitar into an electric guitar by screwing a radio shack clip microphone to its top and plugging it into the home stereo. By age 12 he was playing one chord jams with his friends. Mark’s interest in jazz developed gradually; as a kid hacking around on the guitar, he was really into Yes, Genesis, ELP and Jethro Tull, and when he heard groups like the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and Weather Report, it changed everything. For Mark, the virtuosity, extended compositions and interaction of these musicians was overwhelming–pure magic. He completely immersed himself in this music, and when he learned that all those musician magicians had a common link- Miles Davis, he worked backwards from Miles’ electric groups to Trane and Bird, and from there his listening and interests branched to everyone and everything jazz.
Mark attended Rutgers University as a pre-med student, that is, until he first heard guitarist Ted Dunbar. Dunbar was conducting his class on the lawn near where Kleinhaut could overhear. He was teaching his theory on tonal convergence and Kleinhaut was mesmerized. “I wanted to be able to do what he was doing,” Kleinhaut said, “Soon I was bringing my guitar and haunting his classes soaking up everything he was saying, and going back to my dorm room and practicing for hours on end. I guess my stalking him finally got his attention, because he turned to his class one day, pointed at me and said, ‘see this guy, this guy is hungry, why aren’t you taking this class?.’ Kleinhaut considers Ted Dunbar his first real teacher, “He showed me how the guitar was unique among all musical instruments, like a slide rule that could map out the melodies laid atop harmonic structures with horizontal and vertical axis. Dunbar stressed that it wasn’t about the notes; rather it was the touch upon the instrument that would make the guitar speak. He took the time and care to demonstrate things like swing, tension and release and telling a story with the music.” Kleinhaut recalled, “Most importantly, he guided me to teach myself, to understand that the universe of musical knowledge and experience is endless, and to always want to learn. Much of what he gave me I didn’t really understand, but it’s still lodged in my head and somehow every day a little bit more of it emerges.” After encountering Ted Dunbar Kleinhaut realized that music was going to be more than a hobby, so he changed his major to music. He graduated from Rutgers in 1979, after a full immersion in the Jazz program at Rutgers whose faculty consisted of: Ted Dunbar, Kenny Barron, Frank Foster, Paul Jeffrey and Larry Riddley, plus master classes conducted by: Barry Harris, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Ponder, Buster Williams, Ron Carter, Billy Cobhan, Jimmy Heath and others.