Grammy award-winning drummer/percussionist/composer/educator Mark Walker was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He began playing drum set at age 10, and at age 16 studied with the “Dean of Percussion” Roy C. Knapp until Knapp’s death in 1979. He played his first professional club, concert and recording gigs barely out of high school.
He gained valuable experience performing an extremely wide range of styles in the Chicago area and later became a first-call session drummer and percussionist, playing on film scores, jingles and record dates. He also began performing with pianist Lyle Mays (Pat Metheny Group), touring the U.S., South America and Europe.
While still living in Chicago in the 1990’s, he began a long stint with sax/clarinet virtuoso Paquito D’Rivera, which continues to this day. He has played on many of Paquito’s Grammy Award-winning records and has toured Europe, Asia, South America the Caribbean and North America with Paquito’s quintet.
He made the move to New York in 1995, immediately establishing himself on the session scene and going on the road with the Caribbean Jazz Project featuring D’Rivera, Dave Samuels and Andy Narell. He also recorded and toured with Rosa Passos, Michel Camilo, Dave Liebman, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Diane Schuur, Linda Eder, Cathy Richardson Band and Ivan Lins.
In 1997 he began a long association with Oregon, featuring Ralph Towner. The band has earned five Grammy nominations, including the category of best instrumental composition in 2008 for Walker’s tune “Deep Six”.
He has also performed onstage with major artists such as Vince Mendoza, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Mike Manieri, Airto Moreira, Don Alias, Flora Purim, Dizzy Gillespie, Sammy Davis Jr., Chu Cho Valdes, Amadito Valdes, Bebo Valdes, Sakesho, Eliane Elias, Jerry Gonzalez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Jovino Santos Neto, Chano Dominguez, Diane Reeves, João Bosco, Filo Machado, Eva Allyon and Leny Andrade.
He has performed live on major television shows such as: “Late Night with David Letterman”, “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”, “PBS presents…” and “BET On Jazz”. He also appears on screen with Paquito D’Rivera in Fernando Trueba’s Latin jazz documentary “Calle 54”(Miramax).
As an educator, he has taught at Berklee College of Music since 2001, and was appointed professor in 2008. He has given master classes, clinics and workshops in Africa, South America, North America and Europe. His instructional book and CD “World Jazz Drumming”(Berklee Press/Hal Leonard) was recently released and is being utilized by students and teachers worldwide. He also teaches an Afro-Cuban online drum set course he authored for Berkleemusic.com.
His new ensemble, the “Rhythm of the Americas”, presents his original jazz compositions with rhythms deeply rooted in the Afro-Latin styles of North America, the Caribbean, and South America. The nine-piece group performed at the Beantown Jazz Festival last year, and recorded a live album at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston.
He has performed on five Grammy award – winning albums and has earned nine Grammy nominations for his work with various pop and jazz artists, including Oregon, Donato Poveda, Paquito D’Rivera and Caribbean Jazz Project. He recently was nominated for a Grammy award for best instrumental composition (for the track “Deep Six” from Oregon’s CD “1000 Kilometers”) and won best Latin jazz album as a drummer/composer for “Funk Tango”by the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet. Mark has also earned the Indie award and the Jazz award (German record manufacturers) for his work with Oregon.
Mark Walker is a Yamaha, Paiste, Remo, Vic Firth and LP artist and his website is www.markwalkerdrums.com.