How does one make a living as a jazz musician these days? To answer that one, you could do a lot worse than to consider what Mark Shilansky does. Which is considerable.
He plays, he composes, he leads not just one but a number of groups. He plays as a sideman, he records, he teaches, and he reaches beyond jazz into neighboring genres — a practical collection of pieces of a life devoted to doing what the man loves.
Mark Shilansky is a native son of New Hampshire, having grown up in a suburb of Concord. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance at the University of New Hampshire, later moving on to the New England Conservatory, earning a Master of Music degree in Jazz.
Mark’s home and base of operations these days is in the Boston area, where he is Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music, having taught there since 1997. His subjects include Ear Training, Arranging, Harmony, and Ensembles. Earlier, Mark had also done a stint in the mid-’90s in the jazz capital of the world, namely New York City. Through it all, though, he has always and consistently returned to his New Hampshire roots.
Fans on the Seacoast know Mark well for his many appearances at The Press Room’s Sunday Jazz series, his versatility always on display — sometimes serving as leader, sometimes sideman, sometimes as accompanist to a vocalist. In recent months, he’s performed in the Proflle Coffee Bar’s Jazz@Profile series and at WSCA’s Button Factory Jazz, among other Seacoast venues. Not long before The Press Room closed for renovations following its sale a year and a half ago, Mark presented an evening of jazz interpretations of the Beatles’ music, an expression surely of one of the many important influences on the musical mind of this eclectic musician.
Looking for other such influences, one notes that at UNH Mark played both classical and jazz piano. He also apprenticed there with adjunct professors and visiting artists including Clark Terry, Phil Woods, and Jimmy Heath. And when he studied at New England Conservatory of Music, he learned from such teachers as Bevan Manson, Paul Bley, and John McNeil. And even after receiving his graduate degree at NEC, Mark supplemented his education by studying with jazz gurus Kenny Werner, Hal Crook and Charlie Banacos. All of which experiences seem to have informed the varied repertoire that Mark Shilansky performs today.
Shilansky’s debut CD, First Look (1997), is a piano trio date featuring Steve LaSpina on bass and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Mark followed this release with a shift in artistic direction, continuing on the path of jazz, but also incorporating the singer/songwriter influences of his early years, such as Elvis Costello and Steely Dan. The move culminated in a recorded collection of original music, Different Songs (2000), featuring Mark as principal vocalist as well as producer/keyboardist. Other Voices (2003), Shilansky's third CD as leader, marked a return to jazz, Latin-jazz, and long-form (occasionally free-jazz) compositions, all featuring the voice in some way, and featuring the vocal work of Luciana Souza, Lisa Thorson, and Paul Stiller of "Vox One".
The versatile Mark Shilansy: one of our own.