Poet, writer and photographer Mark Weber talks about poetry and his experiences in Jazz & Blues world

"As long as there is human life on the planet there will be blues & jazz."

Mark Weber: Jazz For Mostly

Mark Weber was born October 21, 1953 in Covina, California. His family came to West coast from Kansas in 1940 as part of the Great Depression/ Dustbowl migration and settled in Pomona. His interest in music began early on as he played country and folk guitar with his step-grandfather, Harry Matthew, for family functions. Weber grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and graduated from Upland High School in 1972. The jazz influence came about through listening to records and the radio. By the time he graduated, he was a “confirmed jazz & blues & avant garde musics devotee.” In high school, Weber credits photography and his photography teacher, Jefferey Cole, with getting him through high school. In the 1970’s and 80’s, Mark Weber was witness to the experimental jazz scene in Los Angeles and recorded musicians and venues through photography as both devotee and friend.

                                             Mark Weber 2010 Photo © by Victoria Rogers 

Writing has been the focus of Weber’s artistic direction. His first major literary work was a seven page letter “concerning the state of the house” to his mother. Weber wrote for his high school newspaper in 1971, but it wasn’t until after his involvement with the Los Angeles jazz scene that he became caught up in chapbooks. He and poet/musician Gerald Locklin have published a number of well-received chapbooks. Weber’s poetry has become the focal point of his life, although he sees no disconnect between music and poetry believing a good poet must be influenced by music.

Weber has written poems, short stories, book reviews and for several music magazines. In June of 1976, his first monthly column in the international jazz music magazine, CODA, was published. He continued to write for CODA until 1990. Weber has since moved to New Mexico with his wife Janet Simon and publishes chapbooks by ZerxPress, a publishing house he started in Upland in 1983. In 1995, ZerxPress began publishing CDs as well. These days, Mark Weber paints and rennovates houses in New Mexico, publishes and DJ’s a jazz show on KUNM every Thursday afternoon.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What first attracted you to the poetry, music and photography and what does the ART offered you?

I think I started being a writer because I could finish what I was trying to say.  I'm not a very aggressive person and so in my younger days I would usually get mowed over and interrupted and I was continually frustrated that I could not exactly express myself in conversations with people. But if you sat down with a piece of paper you could do that.

What do you learn about yourself from the image and notes? What characterize Mark Weber’s philosophy?

The most important thing is to be kind.

"As a poet you think in very broad strokes of history, you learn to see into the ages when you watch the world, and so, that informed what I decided I wanted in my photos. I fool around with these other art forms but I am first and foremost a writer, of words." Photo © by Victoria Rogers 2010

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD POET, MUSICIAN and PHOTOGRAPHER?

Like Joan Jobe Smith said in her interview with you, Michael, the term "good" is relative.  O, of course, I've deluded myself to think my poetry is "good," but mostly what I care about is if it surprises me that it even happen'd.  There are some poems that write themselves, the best ones, in fact. As a writer of poems you train yourself by doing a lot of writing (same as in music when you practice scales and exercises) also you do a lot of reading.  So that you are ready to flow when setting pencil to paper.

Now, with photography I started out as a devotee of Alfred Stieglitz and all of those in his circle, and then I was especially interested in Man Ray, and eventually the photo journalism of W Eugene Smith, so that it was half dozen years before I started documenting the jazz scene in Los Angeles with a camera.  So, what happened was:  I was an "art" photographer from 1970-1976.  Then,  in summer of 1976 my friend, John Carter, the clarinetist was going to sit in with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, so I told him I'd snap some photos.  Well, that was the trigger, and I started carrying my camera around with me to gigs.  So, my photo approach with music is not "artistical" so to speak, it is more anthropological.  As a poet you think in very broad strokes of history, you learn to see into the ages when you watch the world, and so, that informed what I decided I wanted in my photos.

I fool around with these other art forms but I am first and foremost a writer, of words.

From whom have you learned the most secrets about the music and poetry? What is the best advice ever gave you?

I learned everything I know from the trees.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

When I realized that alcohol & drugs were not my friend (19 years ago).

"Even though the terms "blues" and "jazz" refer to a type of music, it is more correct to think of it as a manner of playing. It is an ingredient that can be added.  For example: you can jazz-up Mozart or Bach or Bob Dylan." Photo: Harold Howard and Mark, California 1980 © Mark Weber's archive

What is the “feeling” you miss most nowadays from the 70s era?

I've been thinking about the 70s lately (because we've been digitizing many of my photos from that time) and I think the 70s were a confused time in America -- like a boat without a rudder. Mostly, in the 70s I went about my own business and tried to leave America alone. I was absorbed in the jazz & blues of Los Angeles those years that America was somewhere else.

Are there any memories from all those Jazz Blues musicians you have meet, which you’d like to share with us?

I quite often tell stories at my website JAZZ FOR MOSTLY and I also run my mouth on my radio show every Thursday afternoon on KUNM here in Albuquerque. (Also streaming world-wide on the web at KUNM.org)(I love that new jargon: "streaming on the web")  It was Cecil Taylor who told me to endeavor to get inside someone's perspective -- that when you are experiencing a concert or a painting, to try and get to the place where that artist lives, and with that you will be just that much more enriched.

Who from the personalities you have shoot, had the most passion for the lens and what is the strangest desire that someone have request in the shooting?

I think the inverse of this question is more interesting simply because most people like to have their pictures taken. It's the ones that are scared of cameras that are fascinating, in this day and age. And then there are the ones who think you are making a lot of money off their picture. Usually it's the performers who are new to show business. The old-timers know that NOBODY is making money.  At least not in jazz.

"America provided the crucible that made blues & jazz happen and it itself deserves credit, with its ideas of freedom and democracy that looks toward an egalitarian brotherly-hood, but it is to Black Americans that the world can salute." Bobby Brooks and Harold Howard San Bernardino Freeway heading into L.A. 1983 Photo © by Mark Weber

What's been their experience from jazz scene in Los Angeles? Which memory makes you smile?

Makes me smile?  When Capt Beefheart told me he likes to think of pterodactyls floating over a forest when he's soloing on his soprano saxophone.   Another memory is when I met Dootsie Williams around 1978, the producer of "Earth Angel" by The Penguins, that he released on his Dootone label. I was thinking about this the other day and how we talked about the great record he released on Dexter Gordon back in the 50s, that I had just acquired. (Dootsie also released records on Buddy Collette, Curtis Counce, and pianist Carl Perkins, but mostly he put out R&B records and Doowop and Redd Foxx.)

Make an account of the case Poetry & music & what characterize the sound of words?

I still think Kerouac did it best. His recordings with jazz are the most successful and meaningful. The whole idea of words and music was solved ages ago with song.  Song is still where words go best with music.  Reading poems with music has a lot of possibilities. I've been lucky in that regard in that I've had great collaborators over the years like David Parlato, Michael Vlatkovich, Connie Crothers, J.A. Deane, Kazzrie Jaxen, Harry Scorzo, and my own MW Poetry Band, and one of my favorite tracks is one I did with Bayou Seco where I read a poem about a police helicopter chasing some poor soul through the neighborhood.

Do you know why the poetry, Jazz and Blues are connected to the avant-garde and underground culture?

Probably because of a shared sensibility.

What's the legacy of Blues and Jazz culture in our civilization todays?

This is a GREAT question, Michael!  I can get up on my soapbox!  The legacy of blues & jazz is the legacy of an underclass of humanity that shined through all the ignorance and hatred and did the best they could to be dignified human beings, and they left a trail for us to follow on all those records they made.  America provided the crucible that made blues & jazz happen and it itself deserves credit, with its ideas of freedom and democracy that looks toward an egalitarian brotherly-hood, but it is to Black Americans that the world can salute. Johnny Otis & Buddy Collette 1984 Photo © by Mark Weber

When we talk about blues and jazz, we usually refer to memories and moments of the past. Apart from the old cats, do you believe in the existence of real BLUES & JAZZ nowadays?

Always. As long as there is human life on the planet there will be blues & jazz.  Even though the terms "blues" and "jazz" refer to a type of music, it is more correct to think of it as a manner of playing. It is an ingredient that can be added.  For example: you can jazz-up Mozart or Bach or Bob Dylan.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues and jazz are always with us. Why do think that is?

You people in Greece must love blues & jazz.  I'm moving to Greece, tomorrow!  Do you guys like yoga, too?  In America blues & jazz is felt as an influence in most of the pop musics BUT it itself is not exactly applauded.  I was at a concert the other night of Charlie Parker music as rendered by a local nine-piece virtuoso ensemble called SuperSax New Mexico and the house was only half full when it should have been sold out.  America is kinda dumb to jazz, I'm sorry to say.

Why did you think that the Jazz Blues poetry continues to generate such a devoted following?

Again, I think I'm going to start swimming to Greece this afternoon.  Do you live near the Parthenon?  I want to stand where Pericles stood. Tell Penelope I'm coming home!

It must be hard, but which meets have been the biggest experiences for you and why and which of historical personalities would you like to meet?

I would like to meet the Dalai Lama.  Although, I haven't a clue what I'd say to him. Just say Hi, I guess.  In my life I have had no problem sitting down with Count Basie or Benny Goodman or Sun Ra and asking a gang of questions but with Dalai Lama it would be more unspoken.

"In my life I have had no problem sitting down with Count Basie or Benny Goodman or Sun Ra and asking a gang of questions but with Dalai Lama it would be more unspoken." June Tyson & Sun Ra Club Lingerie, Hollywood  1981 Photo © by Mark Weber

How you would spend a day with Bukowski? What would you like to ask Charlie Parker?

I would love to talk to Bukowski about the 30s and 40s in Los Angeles. I'm going to write a book about Los Angeles some day and those were some interesting years.  For Charlie Parker I would ask him if I could take him into the studio and record him playing along with The Rite of Spring with Sheila Jordan scatting on the second part (the Sacrifice).

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Summer of 2011 -- August 9th to be exact -- a bunch of us convened at pianist Carol Liebowitz's apartment on 103rd in NYC to hang out and jam -- Virg Dzurinko (piano), Adam Caine (guitar), Cheryl Richards (voice), Carol (piano), Ratzo Harris (bass), Gary Levy (alto sax), Andrea Wolper (voice), Nick Lyons (alto), and I read a few poems -- it was pure magic.  Rainy night in Manhattan and it all came together.  And tenor saxophonist Charley Krachy called from upstate!  So, we all talked with him, and the music was sublime, I'm going to take this informal group into the studio some day!

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

How about a painting of me in the fullest expression of the yoga pose known as Utthita Hasta Padangusthanasana (because I'll never be able to do that one in real life) !

Here's my most recent poem, in draft, untitled: 

  Out of the mists of inverse time,

          time that folds in on itself, goes

                     along on two tracks, this felt

memory of a better world golden and

easeful, compassionate and abundant, for

what is myth but what we certainly

remember

   ------ © Mark Weber

Mark Weber / Jazz for mostly - Home

Mark Weber radio host every Thursday on KUNM.Photo © by Victoria Rogers 

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