“A regular with Leroy Vinegar’s Trio, Simon branches out on his own with a sophisticated, lyrical album called “Portland Nights”. Paul Mazzio’s fluid flugelhorn and trumpet lines highlight Simon’s lovely compositional sense, while the Dave Captein/Gary Hobbs rhythm section adds a sensitive spark.” Marty Hughley, The Oregonian.
Bass 10, Mark Simon, piano.
After leaving his native Chicago to experience the excellent music department at Mt. Hood Community College, Mark Simon decided Portland was the right place for him, musically and otherwise. That was in the 1980s, and Simon has established himself as a solid performer in the Rose City ever since. For this new CD, he chose a concept that I don’t recall ever having seen: an entire menu of songs played as duos with, count ‘em, ten of Portland’s all-star bassists. Since there are 12 tunes, two of the bass players get two tunes, and eight others are heard on one each. Hence the title. More importantly, it’s a very happening, recital-like perfor- mance, as one experiences Simon oh-so-comfortably interpreting standards and jazz classics with ten like-minded pals. The tunes range from oldies such as “Avalon” and “If I Had You” to jazz choices such as “Four Brothers,” “A Child Is Born” and “Sonora,” a lesser known gem from one of Simon’s piano gods, Hampton Hawes. In addition, there’s “Alone Together”, “Dindi,” “Stella By Starlight” and a Cy Coleman rarity called “Why Try to Change Me Now.” These and others result in a nicely conceived and beautifully performed CD. Mark is currently battling liver failure, and his many friends wish him blessings as he courageously waits for the phone call which would provide a liver transplant. Despite his medical needs, Simon has provided a wonderful, new CD to savor.
Saphu Records, 2012, 61:49.
– Jazz Scene Magazine, July 2009
We were delighted to catch up with pianist Mark Simon recently. He was kind enough to bring his new trio demo CD to my office. I hadn’t seen him since he played for Steve Kulowatz’s Memorial Service with Dan Presley and Donny Osborne. The members of his new trio include drummer Dave Averre and bassist Leah Hinchcliff.
Simon has also been keeping busy playing solo and trio gigs, and with his piano and vocal students. He teaches all levels of piano technique, including beginners. He is popular with vocalists as well because he sees his job as “to help them sound as good as they can.”
“Mark is a brilliant accompanist and player,” Nancy King said. “It’s important to me, a singer, that the accompaniment is on my side, and Mark makes that happen. He’s fun and easy to work with – a singer’s pianist. Take heed singers, Mark Simon is a winner.”
Over the past 30 years, he has played for the late Ralph Black and Marianne Mayfield, Rebecca Kilgore, Karla Harris, Shirley Nanette and Nancy King. He appeared in concert with Julie Kelly, and Harry Connick Jr and Nicolas Bearde have sat in with him.
Simon is originally from Chicago. While still in high school, he started attending a summer jazz camp at the University of Illinois. His talent was quickly recognized by the faculty, who actually encouraged him to sneak out of the dorm after lights-out to participate in their after-hours jam sessions. Those sessions gave him a sense of excitement in playing that he still enjoys today. “It was an awesome and valuable experience,” he said, “and it gave me a real foundation in jazz.” When he graduated from high school in 1978, he packed up and headed west to Portland, to join the jazz program at Mt. Hood Community College. In 1995, he released
“Portland Nights,” which earned high praise.
Simon says he has been influenced by pianists such as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and McCoy Tyner, as well as bassist Charles Mingus, vibist Gary Burton, and saxophone giant Sonny Rollins, all of whom he saw while in high school.
He has a number of public gigs in July, including solo on 4 and 17 at Cinetopia in Vancouver. On July 8, he will be at Tony Starlight’s with Leah Hinchcliff and Ward Griffiths, accompanying the PDX Jazz Singer’s Showcase. He will be playing for Karla Harris at Bumpers in Fairview on July 18. Contact Simon at www.marksimonmusic.com
– Jazz Scene Magazine, July 2009
“Highlights in Mark’s career include: Integral member of the Leroy Vinegar trio along with Mel Brown (4 years) Integral member of the Hadley Caliman Quartet (6 months) Concert performances with Bud Shank, Jeff Clayton, Joshua Breakstone, and Julie Kelly. Sitting in with many notable jazz artists, including Herb Ellis, Teddy Edwards, Red Holloway, Harry Connick Jr. (Harry on vocals, Mark on piano), Jeff Tain Watts and Russell Malone. Over the past 30 years Mark has played with a virtual Who’s Who of the Portland jazz scene; Leroy Vinegar, Mel Brown, Ron Steen, Ralph Black, Shirley Nanette, Rob Thomas, Ben Wolfe, Dan Balmer, Dick Berk, Dave Captein, Gary Hobbs, Dan Faehnele, and countless others.”
“The Mark Simon Quintet is fast becoming one of Portland’s hottest jazz groups; focusing on the compositions of award winning composer, Mark Simon. The front line is shared by saxophonist Devin Phillips and trumpeter Paul Mazzio. The musical empathy of the rhythm section (bassist Chris Higgins, drummer Larry Bard and Simon on piano) provide the band with a mature and honest foundation while Philips and Mazzio spur each other to new heights.”