Mark Masters (b. 1957) is an inventive and prolific composer and arranger from southern California. He organized his first ensemble in 1982. In 1990, Masters wrote the album PRIESTESS (Capri 74031) to feature Billy Harper and Jimmy Knepper. A subsequent recording with Knepper, THE JIMMY KNEPPER SONGBOOK (Focus 1001, 1993) featured arrangements by Masters of Knepper’s compositions.
The most recent recording by Masters, OUR METIER (Capri 74150, 2018), features Andrew Cyrille, Oliver Lake, Gary Foster, Mark Turner, Tim Hagans, Putter Smith, and Dave Woodley in a large ensemble setting. Michael Ullman calls OUR METIER “…an eclectic and beautifully accomplished big band recording that is made up of, for once, Masters’ originals.” DOWNBEAT magazine awarded the recording four stars in its December 2018 issue. FAREWELL WALTER DEWEY REDMAN (Capri 74089, 2008) features Masters’ “in and out” approach and re-casts Dewey Redman’s music while retaining its substance. The project features Oliver Lake, Tim Hagans, Dave Carpenter, and Peter Erskine. Other recordings include WISH ME WELL (Capri 74078, 2005), with Steve Kuhn, Gary Smulyan, Gary Foster, and Tim Hagans, EXPLORATION (Capri 74068, 2004) with Grachan Moncur III’s octet arranged by Masters, ONE DAY WITH LEE (Capri 74064, 2004) featuring alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, and THE CLIFFORD BROWN PROJECT (Capri 74059, 2003) featuring Jack Montrose, Gary Smulyan, Tim Hagans, Cecilia Coleman, and Joe La Barbera. In addition, in 2013 Capri released two recordings, ELLINGTON SAXOPHONE ENCOUNTERS (Capri 74118), and EVERYTHING YOU DID: THE MUSIC OF WALTER BECKER & DONALD FAGEN (Capri 74123). Released in 2017, BLUE SKYLIGHT (Capri 74143) features Masters’ innovative ensemble writing and unique approach to the music of Gerry Mulligan and Charles Mingus. In 2008, Masters wrote the arrangements for Gary Smulyan’s Reservoir Music (195) release THE JAZZ SOUL OF FRANKIE LAINE.
Masters’ 2005 recording PORGY AND BESS…REDEFINED! (Capri 74069) is a more harmonically adventurous approach to Gershwin’s classic folk opera than what has come before. John Kelman, writing for All About Jazz said “…Masters’ score is the real star here. From the opening fanfare he introduces two contrasting elements that, to a large part, define the approach to the whole suite-vibrant swing and some surprisingly free passages. He clearly proves that it’s possible to take a piece that has been approached from a variety of angles and still find a new way in.”
Since 1998, Masters has been president of The American Jazz Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the enrichment and enhancement of the appreciation of jazz. Under Masters’ direction, the AJI supports activities that educate and expose the public to jazz through live performance and an oral history project, as well as by supporting charitable endeavors that advance jazz music. One such endeavor is the AJI’s FIND YOUR OWN VOICE mentoring program that takes professional musicians to middle and upper school campuses to present clinics and master classes to student musicians. Masters is currently teaching beginning instrumental music in the Temecula, California schools and volunteering at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles, teaching a beginning jazz ensemble.