Pianist Mark Davis has been a mainstay on the Milwaukee jazz scene for thirty years. His performances display a strong sense of tradition, incorporating the innovations of the bebop masters while still keeping an ear to more modern sensibilities. Whether playing solo or backed by a hard-swinging rhythm section, he features unique arrangements of jazz standards as well as originals that bear the influence of jazz icons such as Bill Evans and Bud Powell.
He began classical piano studies at age eight and soon took to improvising and composing. His teachers included Diane Andreoni, Adelaide Banaszynski, and David Hazeltine. He later studied with jazz legend Barry Harris who remains one of Mark's primary inspirations as a player and educator. Mark began performing in Milwaukee jazz clubs while still a teenager. He gained early experience playing in groups led by local stars such as Berkeley Fudge, Manty Ellis, and Hattush Alexander. After completing high school, his interest in visual art led him to pursue an art degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. He graduated in 1990 with highest honors. Mark returned to Milwaukee and taught at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and served as Chair of Jazz Studies from 1992-2019. In 2019, he founded the Milwaukee Jazz Institute and currently serves as artistic director. Mark mentors many young, up-and-coming musicians. Many have gone on to successful music careers, most notably Dan Nimmer who has been the pianist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra since 2005. Currently, Mark teaches lessons in his studio, offers online lessons, presents workshops through the Milwaukee Jazz Institute, and is on the music faculty of Alverno College.
Mark performs frequently as a soloist and as a member of various groups in and around Milwaukee, Madison, and Chicago. In 2002, he formed the group We Six. The group has served as a showcase for his compositions and arrangements as represented on the 2005 We Six CD, Bird Say, and on the recent release, Vivid Dreams, on the Blujazz label. Mark has shared the stage with many internationally known performers such as Phil Woods, Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, Charles McPherson, Tom Harrell, Peter Bernstein, Vincent Herring, Slide Hampton, Frank Morgan, Brian Lynch, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, Greg Tardy, Ted Nash, Eric Alexander, Carl Allen, George Braith, Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton, Stefon Harris, Kurt Elling, Richie Cole, Jim Rotundi, Steve Davis, Joe Farnsworth, One For All, Richard Davis, Mark Vinci, Lynn Seaton, Elliot Zigmund, Joe Magnarelli, John Webber, Billy Peterson, Skip Bey, Bob Rockwell, Phil Wilson, Jackie Allen, Doc Severinsen, Greg Abate, Jim Snidero, Charlie Sepulveda, Gerald Cannon, Jeff Chambers, Steve Rodby, George Fludas, Dave Pietro, Frank Basile, Yoron Israel, Tiger Okoshi, Christine Fawson, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.