Mark Towns Mark Towns is one of the world’s leading exponents of guitar-based instrumental Afro-Cuban Jazz, composing and performing music which blurs the lines between Latin Jazz,Flamenco Jazz, Salsa, Funk, and Fusion. With grooves inspired by traditional Latin Jazz masters Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, and Cal Tjader, Towns guitar work and arrangements combine the technical sophistication of jazz and flamenco with the down-to-earth feel of the blues and rock from his Texas upbringing to create something brand new. As Paul MacArthur (writer for Downbeat) says, “Mark Towns isn’t just playing Latin Jazz, he’s making sure it continues to evolve.”
Mark Towns began writing songs at the age of six, when he also began formal piano lessons. By the time he was 10, he began teaching himself the guitar, and quickly joined a band with some of his fifth grade classmates. “One evening, I taught myself four chords out of the book that came with my first guitar, and the next day, I was at school, performing in front of the class,” recalls Towns.
Although his earliest musical inspirations were the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, he became aware of Jazz and Latin music while in his teens, and Miles Davis, Cal Tjader, and Tito Puente soon became major influences as well.
Towns continued songwriting as he went on to do stints on guitar, bass, percussion, and sometimes even drums and keyboards with various Experimental Jazz, Rock, Avant-Garde, Blues, Indian, Middle-Eastern, and Brazilian bands.
Soon afterward, Towns began playing guitar and bass with various Salsa bands, as well as playing more Jazz gigs of all types, including Big Band, Funk, Fusion, and Latin Jazz. His songwriting soon began to reflect these elements as well.
During this period, he was often called upon to play salsa gigs on guitar in bands with no pianist. “I figured out tumbao patterns that laid well on the guitar to take the place of what a Latin pianist usually would do,” says Towns. These inventions for guitar eventually propelled Mark Towns into becoming a recognized expert on Latin Jazz guitar playing. After having tutored many established jazz guitar veterans in the art of Latin guitar articulation, Mark is now at work finishing an instructional book of Latin Tumbao patterns for the guitar.
Towns has since been leading his own top-notch bands, in addition to finding time to perform with a diverse array of major artists, including Rickie Lee Jones, Chaka Khan, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Arnette Cobb, Stanley Clarke, Pharaoh Sanders, Clay Aiken, Pete Barbuti, Chucho Valdes, Roy Hargrove, Hubert Laws, Kirk Whalum, Yomo Toro, Rick Braun, Larry Coryell, Michael White, and Dave Valentin, to name a few.
Mark Towns’ music has the unique quality of being both esoterically hip yet universally accessible. Whether it’s burning hot or flowing cool, Mark’s music retains a magical, otherworldly feel.