Jazz Arts Dept.
Born in 1953 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mark Soskin has recorded and performed with such diverse musicians as Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Randy Brecker, Billy Cobham, Buster Williams, Eddie Henderson, Stanley Turrentine, Cornell Dupree, Herbie Mann, John Abercrombie, Claudio Roditi, Sheila Jordan, Gato Barbieri, Joe Locke, David “Fathead” Newman, Mark Murphy, Slide Hampton, Pete and Sheila Escovedo, Bobby Watson, Miroslav Vitous, and the NY Voices.
Soskin pursued classical studies at Colorado State University, but his interests in jazz music were growing. In 1973 he enrolled in the Berklee College of Music, studying composition as well as arranging. He began to work professionally in Boston before moving to San Francisco, where he went on to work with some of the West Coast’s finest players.
In San Francisco, Soskin was introduced to Latin music legend Pete Escovedo. Along with Pete’s daughter, percussionist Sheila E., they toured and recorded as Azteca, a group in which Soskin’s keyboard, writing, and arranging talents were showcased. The group, with Tom Harrell on trumpet, recorded two discs for Fantasy Records, produced by drum ace Billy Cobham. Soskin was enlisted in Cobham’s band, a stint that lasted two years and produced two recordings for Columbia. Between tours for Cobham, Soskin did a tour and live recording for the CBS All Stars with Tom Scott, Alphonso Johnson, Steve Khan, and Billy Cobham. Soskin was also active as a session player at Fantasy studios in Berkeley, California, and veteran jazz music producer Orrin Keepnews took notice.
Soskin signed his first recording contract with Prestige (a subsidiary of Fantasy), produced by Keepnews. Rhythm Vision, featuring the likes of Benny Maupin and Harvey Mason, eventually made it onto Billboard’s top ten Jazz Chart. Keepnews introduced Soskin to Sonny Rollins, which started a long, fruitful collaboration (14 years), including extensive touring throughout the world and a number of critically acclaimed recordings with the tenor sax master.
Since 1981 Soskin has resided in New York City, where he is active as a sideman and as a leader. He has eleven of his own recordings to date and three as co-leader, one featuring Harvie Swartz and Joe LaBarbera with Sheila Jordan called Spirits, one under the name Contempo Trio with Danny Gottlieb and Chip Jackson, featuring Ravi Coltrane, and another Contempo Trio recording, The Secret of Life, featuring Carolyn Leonhart. His recording 17, on TCB, highlights Soskin in a quintet setting featuring mainly original compositions.
He continues to maintain a busy tour schedule as well as giving master classes and workshops. Television performance credits include “Sex and the City.” Among his arranging projects have been writing for Slide Hampton’s “World of Trombones” and writing and playing on Steve Smith’s DVD, “Drumset Technique/History of the U.S. Beat.” Soskin has been featured in solo piano concerts throughout the world, such as the Ottawa Jazz Festival. He performed the premiere of contemporary classical music composer John Adams’s opera, Ceiling/Sky at Lincoln Center.
Mark Soskin has been written up in numerous music publications, including Ira Gitler and Leonard Feather’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz and The Jazz Book by Joachim E. Berendt. He is featured in the film documenting Latin jazz artists entitled Calle 54.
He is currently signed with the Kind of Blue label and has produced three recordings for the company, all critically acclaimed. The first, entitled One Hopeful Day, features Chris Potter, Bill Stewart, John Patitucci, and John Abercrombie. The second, released in October 2009, is entitled Man Behind The Curtain, with Ravi Coltrane, Bill Stewart, and Jay Anderson. Soskin’s most recent recording is a solo piano outing featuring the compositions of acclaimed Italian film composer Nino Rota, who wrote primarily for the films of Federico Fellini. It was voted one of the top 10 CDs of 2012 (allaboutjazz).