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Pianist Mark Pringle has studied at Birmingham Conservatoire of Music and already has a respectable album to his name. This Is, a two-piano jazz collection in the company of established pianist John Law.

Mark’s parents are not professional musicians, but music was always there in the background: ‘My Dad has a very strong interest in music,’ says Mark. ‘He is very well-listened in classical, jazz and all other kinds of music, which I think had an influence on me. He also used to arrange classical guitar concerts in Brighton in the 1980s, and he plays a little bit of classical guitar himself.’

Mark PringleMark, his brother and sister all began learning musical instruments from an early age – Mark, clarinet and piano; his sister piano and singing; and his brother piano and flute. ‘I was six when I took up the piano,’ Mark recalls. ‘I studied classical music but when I was about ten, my brother showed me the Blues scale and I fell in love with jazz and improvisation. Nevertheless, I carried on studying classical music until I was eighteen, even though I was predominantly playing jazz. I still play classical music and take an interest in it at college.’

We asked Mark: Why Jazz? ‘I think I liked the idea of it whilst I was studying classical music,’ he replied. ‘It seemed more adventurous and exciting playing music that wasn’t written out on a page. Once I started listening to CDs and experimenting with it on the piano, I just sort of fell in love with it and never looked back!’

Over four years Mark participated in jazz workshops with the Jazz Factory at Wiltshire Music Centre where the tutors included Jason Rebello and Mike Mower. ‘These weekly workshops really helped me to develop my improvising skills and to become immersed in the music. I was also playing with two big bands for several years – WYJO (the Wiltshire Jazz Orchestra) and COSYJO (the Centre of Somerset Youth Jazz Orchestra).’

Mark started to take lessons from jazz pianist John Law and these continued for three years. ‘As well as being a constant source of inspiration, John provided me with many important performing opportunities, including two ‘mini-sets’ at Frome Festival in 2009, sitting in with a rhythm section of Asaf Sirkis on drums and Steve Watts on bass, and playing solo at Rook Lane Arts in 2010. I had decided to take two years out between sixth form and music college … it meant that I could spend time listening to all sorts of music and obviously playing a lot. I managed to do a bit of travelling as Mark Pringlewell. Looking back, I wouldn’t do it any differently, it shaped the player I am now.’

In 2009 Mark also played a gig with a trio of South West England based musicians Adrian Smith (bass) and Russell Collins (drums) supporting Mercury nominees, Portico Quartet.

‘My jazz influences? The ‘Big Three’ are Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau and Gwilym Simcock,' says Mark. 'All three have a huge impact on me. I attended a masterclass with Gwilym Simcock in 2010 and he kindly expressed a lot of interest in my playing and composing.’

Mark listens to a lot of other music as well: ‘I couldn’t survive on just jazz. I enjoy electronic artists like Flying Lotus, Bonobo, Four Tet, Animal Collective and Gold Panda, and I’m obsessed with a Swedish Folk singer called The Tallest Man On Earth. I listen to a lot of bands and Hip Hop as well – I’m never not thinking about music’.

Birmingham Conservatoire has opened even more doors for Mark where he has been taught by musicians like Liam Noble and John Turville and taken part in workshops with musicians such as Greg Osby and Dave Holland. ‘Birmingham is a very special place for jazz,’ says Mark. ‘I get to play with some of the most talented young jazz musicians in the country every day. I’m so happy I ended up here. I wouldn’t change it.’

‘….ended up here …!’ We don’t think so. We think that for Mark this has been just another John Law Mark Pringle This Isstarting point.

Click here to taste Mark and John playing three edited selections from the album. John says: ‘This is .. is a wonderful new recording I've just done with an ex-student of mine, Mark Pringle who's beginning studies on jazz piano at Birmingham Conservatoire, having won a scholarship. He's an amazing pianist and composer and we did a recording on two pianos. It's got over 70 minutes of music on it and ranges from our own original compositions to an unusual version of the Cole Porter jazz classic I Love You. The CD actually starts with a piece by J.S. Bach!’

’I've uploaded selections from three of the numbers (with some fades and crude edits!) and put up some photos of us. The three selections are: Chorinho (by Lyle Mays), Is (Law) and Lakes (Pat Metheny).

Click here for a video of Mark and John jamming on John Coltrane’s Impressions.

John Law is a much sought after teacher, a fine pianist and an unheralded but valued mentor to young pianists. Writing about the album in The Guardian newspaper, John Fordham said: ‘Law's dancing Fun at Five and his account of Pat Metheny's typically relaxed and buoyant LakesJohn Law express the kind of lightness of touch and spirit that characterise his work. The quietly playful closing Is (Law's thematic complement to Pringle's pensive This) is hypnotic. …. This Is has plenty of absorbing moments for piano lovers.' Click here for John’s MySpace site where you can here more of his playing.

John Law


You can also visit Mark’s MySpace site where you can listen to another of his pieces, Betty Blue. (Click here).

Writing about the album in The Independent newspaper, Phil Johnson said: ‘This duet for two pianos by the reliably excellent Law and Pringle, his stupendously talented young pupil, is so full of joy that it can renew your faith not just in jazz, but music itself.

In December 2014, Mark received a 2014 Peter Whittingham Award. Mark says: 'I am extremely happy to have been awarded a Peter Whittingham Award. In early December I took my trio down to London to play for a panel which included saxophonist Pete Wareham, trombonist Dennis Rollins, and Justin McKenzie of London promoter Jazz re:freshed, who decided to award me a Help Mark Pringle TrioMusicians UK Development Award. Previous recipients include Gwilym Simcock, Trish Clowes and Peter Edwards.'

Mark Pringle Trio

'Over the course of the next year I will use the money to develop a couple of exciting projects. Firstly, my longstanding trio, and secondly, a 12-piece ensemble of horns, strings and rhythm section called A Moveable Feast, with which an album was recently recorded. More information on that in due course.That same evening we had much fun playing at The Ent Shed in Bedford in support of Elliot Galvin’s trio, followed by a long drive back to Birmingham and an impulsive 1.30am late set at The Yardbird to close the jam session. A productive and inspiring day with the trio! In other news I have added a lot to my website including information on projects, upcoming gigs, links to my music and more. I am also on Twitter and Bandcamp where you can download a free copy of my trio ep, K.B. (or choose to make a donation). You can also buy the limited edition CD, individually hand-drawn and signed by the trio, for £3.'

An expert in survival medicine, Peter Whittingham was also a pianist who enjoyed the music of Gershwin, Porter, Sondheim, Bernstein, Shearing and Peterson. After his death in 1987 his family set up this award in his memory – and their connection with the award continues. The award is worth £4,000 and made to a jazz musician or group towards a creative project.


© Mark Pringle and Ian Maund 2012 - 2015

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