Home » Jazz Musicians » Mark Whitecage

Mark Whitecage

Mark Whitecage is internationally known as an innovative instrumentalist and composer in the fields of jazz and new music. He performs at the highest level of creativity, constantly transforming and reconfiguring his wealth of musical experience to offer a fresh and unique voice in any musical setting. In his five decades of experience, Mark has explored bop and post-bop, free-wheeling improvisation, electronics, musical opera, music for dance, solo to big band ensembles, even sound collages with homemade instruments. Mark says of his experience, "I've played in every type of band there is except klezmer."

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1937, he began performing on alto sax at age 6 in his pianist father's family band along with his brother and sister. Mark got his union card at age 12, when he added tenor sax and clarinet to his arsenal, and throughout high school he honed his skills performing with a host of dance bands around Connecticut.

When he joined the Army in 1955 he continued to perform regularly with a quintet in a coffee house off the base in El Paso, Texas. It was in El Paso that Mark briefly met and played with Eric Dolphy, whose inspiration was pivotal in Mark's evolution from playing standards and bop toward finding his own voice on his instruments. "Technically I could play anything I wanted, but I hadn't the slightest idea what direction to go. I could have gone into the studios," Mark said about his playing in those days. Of meeting and hearing Eric Mark says, "One note and I was gone. I was in his camp. He turned me on to Zen Buddhism. He was into meditating. He got me on the right course between him and John Coltrane."

After the Army Mark returned to Connecticut, determined to work on developing his own thing. He rehearsed with local musicians interested in exploring improvisation - bassist Mario Pavone among them. He played in various clubs around the state and in New York City and worked in a studio recording backgrounds for Sire Records vocalists' for a couple of years. Then in the mid and late 1960's he did his first recordings with vibist Bobby Naughton on Otic Records, Nature's Consort and Understanding.

Throughout the 1960's Mark traveled to New York City more and more to hear the music in the clubs and to rehearse with other players he knew from Connecticut and who he was meeting on his trips to the City, such as trumpeter James Duboise, drummer Laurence Cook, and clarinetist Perry Robinson.

Read more


"Well, I say from now on, those who love life and those who write about music should listen to Mark Whitecage and make it their business to find out what he is doing and where he will be doing it. Then tell everyone you know or have known to listen immediately." William Parker, "Conversations", 2011, Rogueart

“The man is an absolute master of the alto saxophone and clarinet (not to mention a dab hand at electronics), and one of the finest and most original jazz composers in the world, and has been for years.” Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic; Signal to Noise

“Whitecage creates full-bodied jazz songs drawn from the boundless font of a living tradition...music of enduring substance.” Sam Prestianni, Jazziz

Read more


Album Discography



Charles Mingus
bass, acoustic
Ornette Coleman
saxophone, alto
Lee Konitz
saxophone, alto
Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano
Julius Hemphill
saxophone, alto
Tony Malaby
saxophone, tenor
Ivo Perelman
saxophone, tenor

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.