What they said:
Mark Soskin's recording, Mark Soskin Solo Piano, Music of Nino Rota
voted one of the top ten CD's of 2012" (allaboutjazz)
Mark Soskin's recording, Mark Soskin Solo Piano, Music of Nino Rota
voted one of the top eleven CD's of 2012 by drummer Steve Smith
Mark Soskin: Nino Rota (2012)
by Dan McClenaghan, ALLABOUTJAZZ.com
Mark Soskin is probably best known for his work with saxophone legend Sonny Rollins. As Rollins' pianist from 1978 to 1991, he contributed to a string of several marvelous CD releases on the Milestone label. These included Dancing in the Dark (1987), which opened with a masterfully straightforward cover of the pop song, "Just Once," that featured Soskin's sparkling electric keyboards.
Soskin's work with Rollins was mostly in the realm of jazz standards, Great American Songbook tunes, and the saxophonist's engaging originals. For Nino Rota, the pianist's third solo piano outing, he chooses to go with a theme-based project: an exploration of the music of the famed Italian tunesmith.
Nino Rota (1911-1979) was an Italian composer best known for his film scores. In the United States, it was his soundtracks for The Godfather (1972) and Romeo and Juliet (1968) that shone the brightest lights on his artistry. Here, Soskin shines his own personal light on some of Rota's compositions, catching the spirit of Rota's music and melding it with his own identity.
Soskin opens with "La Strada." The sound is solemn, hauntingly majestic, wistful. "Juliet of the Spirits—Rugiada Sui Ranicchi" and "Juliet of the Spirits—Teatrino Delle Suore," with their dark tones and moody atmospherics, are presented back-to-back, as if part of a suite.
Unlike much of his work with Rollins (where much of the beauty of the music came from a forthright temporal transparency of approach to often familiar melodies), this Rota remembrance has cerebral depth and a resonant holiness, like music composed in cathedrals but imbued with moods and emotions from outside the reverential rooms. In fact, the sound of Nino Rota, with its reverberant ringing, gives the music—Soskin's explorations of, ruminations on, and deconstructions of Rota's tunes—a quality of sublime timelessness.
Two of Rota's most recognizable works are here, "The Godfather—Theme," treated as a minor blues, and "The Godfather—Waltz." "La Dolce Vita—Suite 1" is the liveliest, most percussive piece on the album, shifting from an angels-drifting-in-the-clouds-above opening to a late-night-in-a-dim-barroom groove.
Soskin wraps up the set with "The Acrobat (From 7 Pieces for Children)"—an original Rota piano composition, rather than a film score. It is a simple, hopeful, beautiful tune, perfect for closing out this outstanding solo piano offering.
Track Listing: La Strada; Juliet of the Spirits--Rugiada Sui Ranocchi; Juliet of the Spirits--Teatrino Delle Suore; The Godfather--Theme; The Godfather--Waltz; Nights of Cabiria; La Dolce Vita--Suite 1; Romeo and Juliet--A Time for Us; I Vitelloni; Amarcord; La Dolce Vita--Suite 2; The Acrobat (From 7 Pieces for Children).
Personnel: Mark Soskin: piano.
Record Label: Kind of Blue Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream
Mark Soskin: Challenges Welcome
by R.J. DeLuke, ALLABOUTJAZZ.com
In conversation with the immensely talented and engaging pianist Mark Soskin, the word "challenge" arises periodically. It's used in a good sense. Simply put, "I like to be able to be handed a challenge and then rise to it," he said in conversation, earlier in the summer of 2010.
Diversity is also something he likes. The evidence is in the myriad of projects with which he has involved himself since leaving a golden gig with Sonny Rollins years ago, after holding the piano chair in the Saxophone Colossus' band for about a decade. That variety includes solo concerts, a recording contract with Kind of Blue Records, where has examined the attributes of the jazz quartet, duet projects of varying kinds, and recently a project with singer Roseanna Vitro that examines the music of Randy Newman |.
Man Behind the Curtain (Kind of Blue, 2009), is his 10th as a leader, and holds up to his high standards—great energy and great beauty— with outstanding empathy among the players, this time featuring Ravi Coltrane on saxophone. The quality of Soskin's work is consistently high. He's also the arranger, as well as pianist, for the Randy Newman project that Vitro will be releasing as a recording before too long, and there is also touring involved.
Soskin, who also teaches, has irons in a lot of fires, moving from challenge to challenge. And it was a thrill for the pianist to go back and play with Rollins, whom he teamed with in the 1980s, to make more music at a concert in Seattle. It wasn't a look back, however. Playing with Rollins is still a huge test.
"The gig was fantastic. It was really nice to connect with Sonny again," says Soskin. It had been a gap of some 13 years since Soskin performed with the saxophonist. Rollins sent him a set list with certain keys, "but it's always interesting being on the gig because you always feel like anything can happen." He did his homework on the music and was thrilled with the outcome. And he continues to be amazed by the 80 year-old jazz icon, who is still explosive.
"When we spoke, I said, 'Sonny, you're an inspiration.' This was about 11:30 at night. And he said, 'Right at this moment, I'm practicing.' That's pretty cool. It makes us younger guys inspired. And he came out there on the gig burning. I hope not only am I living by that age, but playing."
"It was great," adds Soskin. "I didn't really see him until we were up on the stage during sound checks. The sound checks are usually us just playing. We almost played up to the performance. The feeling was really great. I said to him at one point, 'It's been a while.' He said, 'Mark, don't think like that. It seems like it was just yesterday.' That was very cool. We have a long past, as you know. I was with him for a long time. That was very, very nice."
Very, very nice is Man Behind the Curtain, an album Soskin is justly proud of. It features original compositions—he has a great feel for writing interesting tunes that are melodic and engaging—and a few lesser-known songs by the likes of Lerner and Lowe, Kurt Weill and others. Ravi Coltrane, a superb player, is a striking presence.
"The immediate thing that gets me about Ravi's playing is his sound," Soskin says. "He's got a really beautiful sound. His approach is very organic. It's not so much a studied approach. It's human. He's got his own voice, which is a great thing. Before I recorded with him, I checked out his recordings. I went to hear him. We hooked up really nicely. I love the way he plays the melodies. And his approach to improvisation is organic. I really like that. I like the blend we got. A lot of times, I would double lines and things like that. Really nice."
Coming to the music in the shadow of a legendary father could be intimidating, and therefore problematic, but not for Coltrane. "He handles it well, and he was smart enough to forge his own thing. That I really appreciate. He's a nice guy—very easy to be with. He was very serious about the music I was doing. We just had one short band rehearsal, but we had a couple of live gigs in New York before the recording. Also, me and him got together and just played duo with the tunes. We would bounce ideas off one another. I like how the results came out. I'm happy about that."
The band cooks hard ("Invitation," "Heather on the Hill"), or calms it down nicely ( "For All We Know," "Heaven's Sake"). Soskin has a strong musical kinship with rhythm mates Bill Stewart on drums and Jay Anderson on bass.
"These are some of my favorite guys. I played with Bill Stewart a bunch of different times. I love what he brings to the table. All of these guys fit into my style very well. My big thing is interaction. I like what they bring. My friend Jay Anderson, I've been playing with forever. He's got a big fat sound. Love what he does. These guys are top- notch and fun to play with," says Soskin.
He adds, "It's a challenge to me. It's one part of my compositional practice to take a tune and make it my own. That was part of the idea on this. I have three compositions on there. I like writing for projects. So this thing gets me to do that. I do more writing when I have certain projects. Usually it's harder for me to just go to the piano and write. There has to be something that will get me out there."
Once he's out there, his compositions are always pleasing. Well-thought-out and creative, like all his projects that he handles with a broad experience base behind him. Soskin started playing piano as a child
Music was around in his house and jazz influences like Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Stanley Cowell, Bud Powell, Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Keith Jarrett and others took hold. At Colorado State University, Soskin started off as a language major, but switched to becoming a music major and transferred to Berklee School of Music. He left and moved to San Francisco, where the music scene was flourishing. He played with Joe Henderson and others and encountered Orrin Keepnews at Fantasy Records. Keepnews brought him to Sonny Rollins, and thus began one of Soskin's greatest musical experiences.
Since then, his career has been strong. He has been recording regularly and keeping himself busy in a variety of ways, including working with Vitro to interpret the music of Neman, a pop/folk/movie score writer and performer. "That's a small band with violin and some guitar. Steve Cardenas plays guitar on [the recording]. The violinist is a young woman named Sarah Caswell. Roseanna is doing the vocals. I also did a lot of writing for that. Rethinking that kind of idea. Randy Newman stuff. I re- worked a lot of that, definitely, in terms of feel and harmony. That's really a challenge, because a bunch of those songs are so simple. And a lot of the lyrics are talking. They're more spoken. So, it's tricky. But that's a challenge I also like."
His schedule includes concerts in Europe, as well as a gig at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania on September 8th, with Matt Wilson and Joel Frahm.
"I've been doing different kind of band formats. Some larger, some smaller. I love the diversity. The duo thing I really like. You have a lot of flexibility and you can go a lot of different places. And solo piano playing—I've done a few records with solo piano. I like doing that stuff," he says.
Soskin also enjoys teaching, which he does at Manhattan School of Music. "The kids are inspiring. That's been nice for me. They're all playing at such a high level, it's astounding. I like being a part of that side of music, to give something back and tell my stories. Sometimes I'll come out of a day of teaching there, and my eyes will be open because they're playing such great stuff. I try to encourage them, inspire them and get them motivated. I'll provide the spark and give them different ideas and criticisms, try to steer them in the right direction and keep them open-minded, as well as trying to instill adaptability in them. [I] try to tell them that if they are adaptable to many kinds of situations, not only is it good for their musical side, it's also practical. It will help them work more if you can play in a lot of different situations."
So Soskin remains busy on the New York City music scene in spite of changes in the club scene and the music industry. "Everything has been really good. I can't complain," he notes. "The fact that I have a record contract is a good thing, too. In this day and age, that seems to happen less and less. I'm glad a record company has been behind me. It's great."
Most importantly, jazz music still enthralls the pianist. It makes him eager to take on the challenges of which he speaks. "As I said to Sonny when I last spoke to him, I'm more into now than I ever was. And I've always been very much into playing. I'm more into now than I ever was, even from the practicing element. I'm more into honing my craft than I ever was. And thankfully that's never going to end. Because you always want to keep searching and trying to improve the craft. It gets deeper."
Pianist Likes a Challenge
by Zan Stewart,N.J. Star-Ledger
Thursday November 22, 2007
The spirited, insightful pianist and composer Mark Soskin is one of modern mainstream jazz's better known sidemen, and for good reason: He's played with such masters as Sonny Rollins, Stanley Turrentine and Joe Henderson. He currently works with such artists as Andy Fusco, Steve Smith's Jazz Legacy, the New York Voices, and Roseanna Vitro.
"I enjoy the ability to help the band sound great," says the 54-year-old Brooklyn native of his sideman opportunities. "The piano's role is an important one. I really like just to be adaptive, do it well."
Soskin serves as the pianist and accompanist with tenor saxophonist Jed Levy's quartet on Friday at the Cornerstone in Metuchen. The engagement once again reunites the pianist with a musician he met several decades ago, playing a duo gig at the now-defunct Zinno's on 13th Street in Manhattan.
"It was just a really nice night," says Soskin, who lives in New York City and whose Web site is www.marksoskin.com. "Since that time we've been playing. Jed is adventurous, and he writes beautiful, adventurous compositions that force you to go different places. I like the challenge of that."
Since the mid-1970s, when he was living in San Francisco, Soskin has also been a leader. On Dec. 14 and 15, he'll lead a quartet at the Kitano in Manhattan, playing music from his recent Kind of Blue CD, "One Hopeful Day."
"When I'm a leader, it's more of my vision of how I see the music presented, so that's also a lot of fun," he says. "But when you get to do what you want to do, there are more headaches, more responsibilities. You have to be ready."
"One Hopeful Day" -- which features saxophonist Chris Potter and guitarist John Abercrombie -- contains several Soskin originals, like the ballad title track and the rolls-along "Step Lively." There are also keenly arranged standards, such as "It's Easy to Remember" and "On the Street Where You Live." All these numbers pose their own kinds of challenges.
"With a standard, it's a question of finding a voice," says Soskin, who also teaches at the Manhattan School of Music. "On the CD, I think I achieved that by, in some cases, by changing rhythmic structures, helping to make the song my standard. Originals, which I have been seriously working on since the mid-1970s, are another kind of puzzle to work out. They make you look at things differently, get you to a different turf.
"I used to throw out a lot of ideas if I wasn't satisfied with them. Now, I try to develop each one, see where that goes. Part of my artistic vision is to keep developing my arranging and composing abilities. Writing gives you an identity."
Writing, leading, accompanying, Soskin, who found himself enthralled by the piano as a pre-teen and is still in love with the instrument, relishes it all -- as long as it asks something of him. "I like being challenged, that's a big thing," he says. "I really like having challenges thrown at me."
by Ken Egbert
TCB Music SA
Mark Soskin, piano; Tim Hagans, trumpet/flügelhorn; Billy Drewes, tenor/soprano saxophone; Jay Anderson, bass; Matt Wilson, drums; Daniel Sadownick, percussion/congas
On 17 we have an in-the-tradition, cerebral, intricate listen. Soskin's facility and light touch often recall Bill Evans (an easy right answer since there's a very complimentary revisit of Evans' "Time Remembered" in the track list), and his drummer on this date, Matt Wilson, has a similar palette. This makes for an arresting interplay between the two I don't often hear elsewhere, and Wilson can also be counted on to throw in a brush-like fill or an Elvin Jones drumroll at the cutoff. Soskin's solo and Wilson's commentary under same on "Pals" shows this cross-connect most clearly, given bassist Jay Anderson's wisely keeping out of the way so the conversation can blossom. Billy Drewes' saxes recall Wayne Shorter in tone but he's a bit less questioning and a bit more fleet of foot (see his statement on the closing "Lefty") and Hagans' solos are tasty.Soskin has more fish to fry per musical phrase than Evans did, or so it seems: his ideas are busier, more detailed, and he likes to write long head melodies that twist and bounce in odd directions. Not so far afield tonally that you'd wonder if he'd been digging Schoenberg, though. The overall effect is that of one of Grachan Moncur III's Blue Note series of recordings in the 1960.Solid quintet, better leader, and hope to hear more soon from them.
by Fred Barrett
This sextet (quintet if you exclude the extra percussionist) session by pianist Mark Soskin is much more appealing than the other TCB release I reviewed, .The jazz has a more modern feel with a tighter and yet freer rhythm section. The addition of trumpet/flugelhorn player Tim Hagans gives more dimension to the music, by way of both harmony and melody. Mark's piano supports, but one can hear that he is definitely in control of the proceedings. The whole sound of the quintet has an off-kilter/slightly avant feel to it. The tip of the iceberg, the icing on the cake, so to speak, is the Bud Powell tune "Un Poco Loco", a pretty complex number that Soskin pulls off effortlessly, proving himself worthy of the title "session leader" ,Of the two TCB releases that I have reviewed, I recommend Mark Soskin's 17
by Bret Primack
AROUND THE CORNER
Mark Soskin's fourth CD as a leader features the New York based- pianist with veteran bassist Harvie Swartz, emerging vibraphonist Joe Locke and protean drummer Adam Nussbaum in a program evenly divided between thoughtfully arranged standards and Soskin originals. Soskin uses this occasion to swing,burn and balladize as he has aptly demonstrated on previous endeavers.
On this well-conseived recording Soskin and his skillful crew offer up a program of sapid and incisive musical dialogues that nicely ascend to august heights of interplay, a result of individual instrumental mastery, and the relaxing,we're having big fun playing kind of feel that pervades the date. Not surprisingly,tasteful,easy-going improvisation is the main course with each soloist displaying proficiency and flair.
by Michael Bettine
Pianist/composer Soskin ahs assembled a tight ensemble for his latest recording. Right from the opening "17," the music comes out swinging. The two horn line up blends well and Soskin's piano is ever present,though not dominating. Hagans reminds me of Freddie Hubbard. His tone is full wthout being harsh. "Elysian Fields" is a mid-tempo tune where Soskin really shines. His piano solo is strong and lyrical. Jay Anderson on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums provide him with strong support without getting in the way. Bill Evans' "Time Remembered" opens up with beautiful solo piano before picking up the tempo when the band enters. "Manfredo's Fest" is an easy latin tune featuring some nice soprano sax work from Drewes. Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco" is done as a piano/percussion duet. The pared down instrumentation keeps the song light and moving. The closing "Lefty" gives the rhythm section a chance to break out and stretch a bit.
This is a nice,easy session that swings without being obtrusive. Soskin shows why he has been busy as both a pianist and arranger over the past twenty years. The musicians here are solid and navigate the music with verve.
by Eugene Holley Jr.
Views From Here
Teamed with drummer Adam Nussbaum and bassist Harvie Swartz, Soskin delivers an album that serves as an excellent introduction to his music. Soskin's spare,lyrical style is heard on several interpretations of songs that former employer(whom Soskin worked with for many years) Sonny Rollins made famous over the years,including a brisk,tight reading of "Alone Together," and a probing mid-tempo exploration of "Blue Room." Soskin also shines on the Rollins composition "The Everywhere Calypso," conjuring a groove that makes you yearn for Carnaval. A swinging,Afro-Cuban performance of "Love For Sale" also cooks,while George Gershwin's "My Man's Gone Now" receives a bluesy,haunting treatment that builds into a powerful crescendo.
Soskin is a composer out of the Bill Evans mode,his tunes involving a high level of interplay between the piano,bass and drums. That is especially evident on the title track, and on "Tribute", a moving composition which features a probing,bowed bass solo by Swartz that segues into an introspective tone poem.
Let's hope that we won't have to wait very long for the next offering from this talented pianist.
by Chuck Berg
Pianist Mark Soskin proves a powerful soloist in this fresh outing for Vartan Jazz. Like Concord's gallery of Maybeck Hall recitals,the sound quality is excellent. As a result,even the subtlest of nuances of Soskin's stunning architecture shine. In the opener,a lovingly recast "Yesterdays," Soskin establishes a compelling style at once sophisticated and spontaneous. His sparkling variations on Brubeck's lilting"In Your Own Sweet Way" further the impression. Whether redefining standards or essaying originals like "Little Fingers," Soskin draws us in with beguiling melodic-harmonic gestes set atop a kinetic pastel-to-neon spectrum. This is chamber jazz of great craft and imagination. As such,it's a date that promises to give pleasure for years to come.
Euroclub de jazz
by Parick Haond
Solo Piano-Homage To Sonny Rollins
Here is a very beautiful album dedicated to the piano and Sonny Rollins lovers. Indeed, Mark Soskin offers us a tribute to the saxophone colossus.The particularity of that tribute is that there is no saxophone present on this album, only Soskin's piano. So ,why did Soskin choose to do an homage to Sonny Rollins? You will know much more hearing the video on the CD. Actually, this NY pianist had worked for a very long time with the tenor saxophonist, so he is the right man to revisit the artist's repertoire. Most of the pieces played here were composed by Rollins. I particularly recommend the great standard "Oleo", performed in such a perfect way. There is also the excellent "H.S.", that we can see played by Soskin on the video. Personally I love this theme that is reminiscent of modal jazz. Among the exciting pieces of the album, we can find two great standards from legendary pianists. Thelonious Monk's"Reflections", with Soskin offering us a very slow but particularly meticulous view of that theme. Then, we have Bill Evans' "Time remembered". The pianist is clearly getting close to the genius Bill Evans in his exposition of the theme and the solo. To sum up, this American pianist exudes class on a very melodic and beautiful solo album.Even if the way he treats the themes is quite classical, there is absolutely no criticism to make about this very exacting recording. The album was recorded in Switzerland during summer 2003
by Glenn Astarita
Pianist Mark Soskin is widely known for his long affiliation with tenor sax titan,Sonny Rollins along with numerous session dates for a variety of notable modern jazz artists.
The pianist steps out in prominent fashion with his latest release,17(Seventeen). Soskin garners enlivening assistance from trumpeter,Tim Hagans and saxophonist Billy Drewes for this set consisting of buoyantly executed medium tempo swing vamps and tuneful choruses,abetted by the pianist's intricate maneuvers and lyrically charged solos. With "Elysian Fields",Soskin renders flailing arpeggios in conjunction with harmonically based block chords and stinging rhyhmic accompaniment,as the potent horn section rides the wave via yearning lines and dynamic interplay. "Cliffhanger" is all about punchy horn charts atop the soloists' complex unison runs and majestically pronounced themes. Here,Hagans' executes blazing 16th notes,followed by Drewes' beefy tenor work,as the band pulls out the stops, along with Matt Wilson and bassist Jay Anderson's bustling,yet altogether crisply rendered pulse. Other highlights include: A heated spin on Bud Powell's classic,"Un Poco Loco" and Soskin's "Lefty",which is a piece overflowing with climactic overtones,extended soloing and cleverly articulated frameworks. Thus,Soskin's latest effort is a stunning success! Vigorously recommended.
Author of Bouncing with Bud:
All the Recordings of Bud Powell
I first became acquainted with Mark Soskin's music by listening to many of Sonny Rollins live performances during the 14 years that Mark was Sonny's pianist. Mark had just the right combination of grounding in the bop tradition and a feel for Sonny's more hard driving style that he developed in the seventies. The ensemble work with Mark at the piano, which extended into the early nineties, is the best I have heard from any of Sonny's post-1970 groups.
Mark's latest CD, "17", is a most impressive display of straight ahead jazz. It has all the heart and soul of the great recordings from the classic period of jazz, but with a fresh and original sound. The brilliant technique of Mark and his sidemen never overshadows the music's substance, as so often happens with some of today's technically proficient but not always very interesting jazz artists. Highly recommended.
"Mark Soskin, in particular, shines with his melodically inventive and clearly articulated choruses"
Peter Niklas Wilson
from his book, Sonny Rollins: The Definitive Musical Guide
"Soskin establishes a compelling style at once sophisticated and spontaneous"
Chuck Berg, Jazz Times
"Soskin renders flailing arpeggios in conjunction with harmonically based block chords with stinging rhythm accompaniment. Buoyantly executed medium tempo swing vamps and tuneful choruses, abetted by the pianist's intricate maneuvers and lyrically charged solos"
All About Jazz (allaboutjazz.com)
"Soskin added crisp, leaning-into-the-beat solos with a distinct flair for rousing climaxes"
"A Strong outing for Soskin, highlighting his sensitive touch, bold statements and keen interplay"
"Soskin was turning out some of the best all-around piano work I've heard in some time"
"Soskin has commanding rhythmic strength and a punching left hand-an effective, fluent soloist"
The Village Voice
"When sensitivity is needed,as on Monk's"Reflections" or "Nightingale",for example,Soskin always improvises something heartfelt and out of the ordinary"
Jazz Review Magazine