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Drummer Mark Walker Returns to Chicago this Sunday at Martyrs

This Sunday, February 9, 2020, Grammy award- winning drummer/percussionist/composer and educator Mark Walker returns to Chicago to perform with his group at Martyrs (3855 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago).

We caught up with Walker to talk about his influences, new recording and what you can expect to hear this Sunday at Martyrs.

1. Chicago Jazz Magazine: You are coming back to Chicago for a performance at Martyrs this Sunday February 9th who will be performing with you?

Mark Walker: This Sunday at Martyrs’ I’ll have Victor Garcia (trumpet), John Wojciechowski (sax), Ernie Denov (guitar), Jim Trompeter (keyboards), Eric Hochberg (bass) and Joe Rendon (percussion) in the band. All amazing players.

2. CJM: Over the years you have performed with some of the legends of the music world but recently you have started leading your own groups, at least in Chicago. What was the motivation behind leading your own band and writing and recording?

Walker: I wanted to find my true voice as a musician and composer. The other reason is that the main touring gigs I had were ending. The group Oregon had come to a close and work with Paquito D’Rivera was less and less frequent.

3. CJM: Talk about your latest release, what was the inspiration to record the repertoire and will listeners hear some of that music on Sunday at Martyrs?

Walker: I have been teaching at Berklee for 18 years, and there are some amazing players on faculty there. I started writing and soon my tunes were recorded by Paquito D’Rivera and the group Oregon.

After I got a Grammy Award nomination for my tune “Deep Six,” recorded by Oregon, I felt it was time to continue along those lines and develop as an artist. I formed a band with pianist Alain Mallet and bassist Oscar Stagnaro.

At some point, I got a faculty recording grant from Berklee and recorded several tunes with Alain, Oscar guitarist Tim Miller, Pernell Saturnino and Paulo Stagnaro, two amazing percussionists. More recently I went back in the studio with Saxophonist Mike Tucker, pianist Leo Blanco, bassist David Zinno and percussionist Ernesto Diaz and recorded the remainder of tunes. I had it mixed at Berklee and mastered at Capitol records in L.A. I entitled it “You Get What You Give” and put it out as a CD through CD baby and the usual streaming platforms. I’m very happy with it! Listeners will hear many tunes from the record this Sunday, there may be a surprise or two.

4. CJM: You have become one of the leading drummers for Latin music in the world. What is it about the music and who has inspired you over the years?

Walker: I fell into Latin music almost by accident. I was called in the early 1980’s to sub on the band Made In Brasil (later Som Brasil), and that led to playing with Paquito D’Rivera. With D’Rivera, we worked with musicians from all over Latin America, and this continued with the Caribbean Jazz Project, leading to many wonderful musical experiences with Michel Camilo, Eliane Elias, Andy Narell, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Ivan Wins and many others. I think it was the fact that I really studied and absorbed the feel of the music that gave me the authentic sound.

5. CJM: This Sunday you will be back in Chicago where you grew up. What is it about Chicago compared to other cities that makes the Chicago Music scene unique?

Walker: Chicago has always been home to me, even though I lived in New York for ten years, and Boston for fifteen years. I really cut my teeth in the studios and in the clubs in Chicago, with amazing players like Howard Levy. There are so many wonderful players here, and the feeling is very friendly and warm. It’s a big city with lots of opportunities, but it seems very all-inclusive. I don’t like to compare it to other cities, but it was a great place to live and work for me.

6. CJM: In recent months the music world has experienced the loss of some of the giants of the industry. Do you think about musicians from the past as you create new music in the future?

Walker: We’ve had many losses in the music community lately: Claudio Roditi, Jimmy Heath, Neil Peart, and Bob Gullotti, to name a few. I think it’s important for us musicians to recognize their contributions to the art, study what they did, and honor them by refining our own music.

7. CJM: Do you have any other projects coming up our readers should be aware of?

Walker: My next project is going to be a large ensemble. Eventually I will bring that music here to Chicago, as I have been told there are lots of players willing play in that setting. I already have three tunes recorded and will probably release my first single in May. I’m also headlining the Arlington Jazz Festival in Massachusetts in May with my big band with special guest Andy Narell.

Get more information about Mark Walker at

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