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About Mark

Anne Arundel County

Mark Schatz - A Brief History   Mark Schatz was born April 23, 1955 into a musical family. He began his formal musical training with cello at age ten and later switched over to string bass. His first performance was in 1971 on electric bass in a high school rock band. Inspired by a love for folk and traditional music, he started to play the guitar and mandolin.   From 1973 to 1978 Mark got his Degree in Music Theory and Composition from Haverford College, studied for a year at Berklee... more

Mark's Compositions

I started learning to play fiddle tunes when I was seventeen and had a crush on a gal who was into the folk and folk dance scene in the Boston area where I did most of my growing up. I told her I had a mandolin that I'd found in my grandfather's closet and she gave me Cole's 1001 Fiddle Tunes and circled a few tunes for me to learn. I had some facility because I'd been playing the cello since fourth grade so I picked up a flat pick and gave it my best effort. It didn't end up getting me munch traction with the girl, but it did introduce me to the magic of a fiddle tune - each one a little world unto itself - beautifully compact, symmetrical, beautiful melodies, and an A and B part that were like the yin and yang of musical form. I went on to get a degree in music and I studied fugues, sonatas, counterpoint and I appreciated the evolution and sense and beauty of these forms. But with my love of mandolin and clawhammer banjo it was fiddle tunes that started to emerge in my mid-twenties. There was a variety of inspirations for these. When I sit around and play by myself it's generally a mixture of drills & exercises, tunes that I already know just for fun and sometimes to improve my playing of them, and sometimes it's just whimsical improvisation. Out of the latter a little melodic phrase may appear. I record this so I won't forget it then let this phrase lead to another, always in search of that beauty of melodic shape that I loved in all of the traditional tunes that I had learned and played so many times. After completing a standard 8-bar A-part (which is generally repeated in a fiddle tune, sometimes with a second ending, sometimes without) I'd look for a contrasting beginning for a B-part, then let that lead me down a compelling path through the next 8-bars. I'd keep recording my progress so I wouldn't have to worry about forgetting something. Some folks might call this following the muse. I try to name the tune immediately after writing it so there is some organic connection to the moment. Full Moon is pretty obvious. Another is The Fallling Waters of Arden - I wrote that while out on my back deck with my sprinkler going back and forth, and the name of my neighborhood is Arden. All Full Up was written after a big meal. Chelsea Town was written while I was in London with Footworks, performing in the first London Run of Riverdance. I don't have a very good long-term memory so these tunes are almost like snapshots from my life, helping me stay connected with my past experiences.
Then there are tunes that I have written when feeling some emotion. All My Children emerged while I was watching a video of my younger brother playing with his young children in far off Israel where he lived at the time. I wrote Julie's Waltz after a dream I had of an old flame.
Another category is events. I wrote the Samolynn Waltz while selling hotdogs in downtown Nashville around 1982 for the wedding of friends Sam and Lynn Bush. I wrote Black Mountain Air for the wedding of some other friends who were married in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I wrote For Carol for a favorite aunt who had died.
"Mark's Compositions" is a compilation of brief snippets of a handful of my tunes from two solo CDs that I recorded for Rounder Records: Brand New Old Tyme Way and Steppin' in the Boiler House.

Bela, Tony, John

I met Bela Fleck around 1977 in Boston at an old-time jam session. He was playing with the Boston based progressive bluegrass band, Tasty Licks, and I was in my last couple of years of study at Haverford College out side of Philadelphia. I was coming back to Boston as much as possible because I'd fallen in love with a dancer in the folk dance group Mandala with whom I'd played with the previous year when I took a year off and studied at Berklee College of Music. When I was in Boston we'd get together and play jazz standards - he on banjo and me on mandolin - I was able to combine my nascent fiddle tune chops with the rudimentary jazz harmony I'd learned at Berklee to keep up with Bela who was already a banjo phenom at age 17 or 18. I eventually joined Tasty Licks on bass with a strong vote from Bela, we went on the Kentucky together to play in a band called Spectrum, and I played his his first two solo projects, Crossing the Tracks and Natural Bridge. He called on me to join the juggernaut Bluegrass aggregation of Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Tony Rice for landmark recordings Drive (joined as well by Mark O'Connor here) and The Bluegrass Sessions. This band appeared at a handful of festivals and legendary club The Birchmere over a span of several years and I considered myself a very lucky guy to be part of that creme of that generation of bluegrass music, sometimes called New Acoustic Music. This project leads off with a few snippets of tunes from these recordings.
After trying to learn the ropes of the country music scene in Nashville from around 1981-1985, I got a call from Jimmy Gaudreau, with whom I'd played with in Spectrum, asking if I wanted to do weekend of shows at the Birchmere with Tony Rice, one of the iconic bluegrass guitar players and singers of our time. Tony apparently liked my playing and subsequently called and asked if I wanted to play some more shows with him. I had my head wrapped around trying to be an electric bass player for a major country act, and told him as much. To his credit, he was totally chill and just said that he'd call, and if I was available I was welcome to come play with him. After a handful of shows my better sense finally kicked in and committed full-time to the gig, eventually becoming Tony's Road Manager and good friend. The next snippets in the project are from Tony's recordings Me and My Guitar and Native American. The sound of his voice and guitar still really get to me - there's real undefinable magic there!
I had the unique good fortune to be able to play a number of shows with the great entertainer, song writer, multi-instrumentalist, flatfooter, story teller, river boat captain John Hartford. This guy was a true original and he was huge inspiration to me and pretty much everyone else in the acoustic music world. The last snippet in the project is from a song of his from his Good Old Boys recording that I played on.

Tim, Nickel Creek

After my five year stint with Tony Rice I joined Tim O'Brien who had recently left the prominent bluegrass band, Hot Rize to launch his own solo career with a new record deal on RCA. As is often the case with major labels, there was a change of management and Tim got dropped from the label. He launched The O'Boys which was an acoustic power trio with me, a guitar player, and Tim on mandolin, bazouki, and fiddle. Tim is another force to be reckoned with in the acoustic music world. He's stylistically versatile, he has a beautiful, powerful voice, he writes songs with depth and subtelty that range from humorous flings to heartbreak, political satire, and soaring, hopeful love songs. And he's got a groove when he plays that's a mile deep. I toured with him from 1990 to 1998, often joined by his sister, Mollie who shared the family gene for virtuosic vocalizing. This melange starts with selections from the several recordings I did with him. One of my favorite CDs to this day is a collection of Bob Dylan songs that he did acoustic versions of called Red on Blond.
In 1998 Tim disbanded The O'Boys to have more flexibility in his touring. I freelanced for the next several years, falling into a number of wonderful playing scenarios. I did a number of gigs with Tony Rice and Peter Rowan, a very colorful performer, singer, and writer. It was in this time period that I worked with John Hartford. I also assembled my own band, Mark Schatz and Friends to feature my own tunes and clawhammer banjo playing that included the killer rhythm section of Jim Hurst on guitar and Missy Raines on bass, and a new kid in town, Casey Driessen on fiddle. This culminated in my second solo CD, Steppin' in the Boiler House.
I got a call in 2003 from acoustic innovators Nickel Creek. They were making a change in personnel and asked if I wanted to audition. Though I was many years their senior, some of their music was a bit of a stretch for me technically. I have some range, and a deep love of a good groove, but I never developed the chops of a good classical or jazz player. But I'm a serious musician who's not afraid of a challenge so I jumped in with both feet, worked really hard on their inventive, energetic, and unique blend of bluegrass, rock, classical, and bits of many other things, and got the gig. This was a new experience for me - a tour bus, road manager, both front of house and monitor engineers, and sizeable, screaming young crowds. It was a huge energy rush, but at the same time it was what I called a two hands on the wheel gig - it required constant focus. I worked with them until they bid "farewell for now" in 2007. I recorded Why Should the Fire Die with them in this time period. They called me for a reunion tour in 2014 and I played on Dotted Line which was recorded to support that tour. The snippets here are drawn from both of those projects.

Linda, Emmy, Claire, Sarah

I got a call from Seldom Scene alum and king of finding the great songs, John Starling, in September, 1999 to go to Tucson to play a couple of shows with Linda Ronstadt, who was officially in retirement at the time, but she would do shows at the Waldorf school that her daughter attended to help raise money for them. I'd always been a huge fan of hers but there was nothing that could have prepared me to be in the same room with that liquid, rich, expressive voice. We rehearsed for a couple of days at her home/hacienda, and is often the case, the rehearsals were as much, if not more gratifying than the shows themselves. The other band members were John, Carl Jackson on guitar & vocals, and Sam Bush on mandolin and fiddle. Linda's niece was singing some high harmony, and Emmylou Harris showed up as a surprise and sang harmony as well. I knew it would always be a musical high point for me. This collection starts with some short segments of songs from that show.
As Nickel Creek was winding down, my old Mark Schatz & Friends bandmate, Missy Raines was preparing to leave The Claire Lynch Band to launch her own solo career. My other bandmate, Jim Hurst approached me at the Rocky Grass Festival to see if I wanted the bass job. I'd been aware of Claire for years but wasn't that familiar with her artistry. I sat a listened closely to their set there and was mesmerized by her singing, songs, and stage presence - she had a lot of class! I got together with her and Jim while in Nashville with Nickel Creek a month or so later and we all agreed that it was a good fit. A good groove and good singing is lifeblood to me. Jim's a groovy somebody, and Claire is one of the very best singers in the business. There's heart, range and depth of emotion there, and some superlative songwriting. She's also generous, collaborative, and just a bunch of fun to be around. I'm very proud of the four projects I recorded with her, and there are snippets from those recordings in this selection. The last of these recordings, North By South, is a tribute to Canadian songwriters, and is Grammy nominated.
We all knew that Sarah Jarosz was a gifted artist from early on. She's another of those triple threats - singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She was already recording for Sugar Hill and touring full time in the summer in her college years. As someone she'd grown up listening to, I was called to play on selected tracks on her first two solo CDs, and felt honored to be included. I played all of the bass on her most recent recording, Undercurrent, which is also Grammy nominated.

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