Mark Simon couples jazz experience with a myriad of jazz influences to create a style of playing and writing that offers a mature outlook while pushing his work out to the edge.
Simon, a Chicago-born Cub fan, has been playing jazz for over 30 years, starting somewhat inauspiciously by playing along with old Jazz At The Philharmonic records from his father’s massive and eclectic record collection, which ran the gamut from early jazz master Louis Armstrong to avant-garde Cecil Taylor. By 13, Mark was listening to Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and other jazz legends while his school chums were gearing up to Led Zeppelin.
Young Simon soon graduated to jazz sessions, further honing his keyboard skills while beginning to play occasional jazz gigs. He cites high school jazz band director, Don Owens, as an important part of his jazz education. It was the same band that Mark’s brother Fred had earlier played in. Owens went on to become the director of Northwestern University’s jazz program.
From “sitting in” with the JATP, he enrolled in a youth summer jazz camp at the University of Illinois, where he was exposed to the live side of jazz. Mark would sneak out of the dorm at night to sit in with the faculty on jam sessions, providing him with a sense of excitement in playing that he’s never lost. “The faculty would have these all-night jams and I was the only student invited to sit in. It was an awesome and valuable experience and it gave me a real foundation in jazz”.