Photo by Matt Lommano
Growing up in a suburb of Concord, New Hampshire, Mark Shilansky wrote songs as early as elementary school, followed by performances in original rock bands and jazz study at the Concord Community Music School. He received a BA in Music Performance in 1992 from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied classical and jazz piano (under the tutelage of David Seiler, Christopher Kies, and Paul Verrette) and apprenticed with such adjunct professors and visiting artists as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, and Jimmy Heath. He moved to Boston, continuing his studies at New England Conservatory, receiving a Masters of Music in Jazz Studies in 1994, working with such teachers as Bevan Manson, Paul Bley, and John McNeil, supplementing his education since then by studying with jazz gurus Kenny Werner, Hal Crook, and Charlie Banacos, and is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at New England Conservatory.
Following a move to New York City in the mid-’90s to immerse himself in the hotbed of music that is Manhattan, he returned to Boston in 1998 to teach at Berklee College of Music and his alma mater, UNH. Mark’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. This direction culminated in a collection of original music, Different Songs (2000), featuring Mark as principal vocalist, as well as producer/keyboardist on Other Voices (2003), Shilansky's third CD as leader, marking a return to jazz, Latin-jazz, and long-form compositions, all featuring the voice in some way, and featuring the vocal work of Luciana Souza, Lisa Thorson, and Paul Stiller of “Vox One.” Join the Club (2007), Shilansky’s latest CD, has been described as “21st Century Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music,” and features original compositions and Latin-Jazz renderings of jazz standards and contemporary pop tunes by the bands Police and the Cardigans, and features saxist Donny McCaslin, trombonist Jay Ashby, and vocalist Kim Nazarian. Of this CD, Jon Garelick, Boston Phoenix, says “Shilansky knows how to make every moment engage, [with] long arcs of melody as he works through the chord changes... this ‘club’ is one anyone would be happy to join.” Garelick also said of the 2013 release of the debut album by Shilansky’s band Fugue Mill, “[It is]… .an especially fresh and inventive jazz album.” Fugue Mill includes compositions inspired by Jazz, Bluegrass, and Celtic Music, featuring original music and adaptations of folk songs and classical pieces, and features violinist Sara Caswell.
All throughout this creative career as a pianist and composer of his own material, Mark has been a consistent presence as a sideman. A tenure throughout much of the 90's as a member of the Luciana Souza quintet led to his almost ubiquitous presence as an accompanist of vocalists, such as Lisa Thorson, The New York Voices, Kris Adams, Carolyn Leonhart, Rebecca Parris, David Thorne Scott, and Patrice Williamson (for whom he has written copious arrangements, and produced her CD, Free to Dream). Mark plays piano and contributed an original composition “All in My Heart,” to New York Voices soprano Kim Nazarian’s debut solo CD. He played piano and contributed arrangements and an original song (co-written with Mark Dagostino), “I Have Found,” on the debut release by rising star vocalist Robin McKelle, “Never Let Me Go.” Mark is a strong presence on vocalist Chris Humphrey’s debut CD “Nothin' But Blue Skies,” featuring Martin Wind (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums), and appeared on many CDs and international tours with the vocal jazz group “Syncopation.”
Shilansky has kept active as a sideman with instrumentalists, as well as, notably with guitarist Steve Kirby (playing piano and organ on his North Light and Illuminations CDs), trumpeter Kenny Wheeler (with concerts at the Regattabar and New York’s Birdland), on drummer David Jamrog’s Visions, a collective group featuring saxist George Garzone, and as an accompanist (along with his fellow UNH and Berklee faculty) for such artists as John Clayton, Bobby Watson, Paquito D’Rivera, Clark Terry, and Claudio Roditi. Also, increasingly, Shilansky is in demand in the recording studio as a Producer/Arranger as well as a performer with a growing list of artists (singer/songwriters as well as jazz artists), having served in this capacity on CDs by Kaye Kelly, Celia Slattery, Dana Edelman, Christina Watson, Lauren Wool, Allyssa Jones, and Michelle Mailhot. Shilansky produces Mark Shilansky's Talking Music podcast, available on iTunes, featuring interviews with a diverse spectrum of local and international great musicians.
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