“Mark is a man who really lives his craft. One of the most attractive features about Mark is that he knows how to keep the music subtle, but still support the drama. Mark does that so beautifully.”
From his days as one of the pioneering icons of electronic music, a jazz artist to his current status as a renowned film composer, Mark Isham continues to be one of the most prolific and provocative artists working today. His gift for creating unforgettable melodies and his love of fresh, innovative musical palettes have earned Isham many awards including a Grammy, an Emmy, and a Clio. Additionally, his film scores have earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Isham is also the recipient of the prestigious Henry Mancini Career Achievement Award for musical excellence.
Isham states, “I create emotion through music” whether it’s high or low, anger or passion, exhilaration or death, denial or lust, motion or solitude. And when I can take a person on this journey through film or recordings, there’s nothing more satisfying.”
Isham’s musical signature is evident in his memorable scores for such notable Oscar-winning films as Crash and A River Runs Through It, the latter earning him a best original score nomination. Isham also composed for a number of Golden Globe-winning films such as Reversal of Fortune and Short Cuts, earning a best original score nomination for Nell. For his work on The Black Dahlia, Isham was awarded “Best Score” by the International Film Music Critics Association.
Mark Isham’s collaborators include icons from both film and music – Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Brian De Palma, Jodi Foster, Robert Altman, Sting, Will.I.Am, Sidney Lumet, and Mick Jagger. Crash director Paul Haggis stated, “I merely asked Mark Isham, to completely forget everything he has ever done and reinvent himself. And he has never failed to do so.” Robert Redford, who worked with Isham on four features (Quiz Show, A River Runs Through It, Lions for Lambs and The Conspirator) remarked,
Mark Isham’s trumpet sound has been described as cool, avant-garde, sexy, lush, sumptuous, vibrant, haunting – even achingly beautiful. He has performed around the globe, and collaborated with celebrated artists in multiple genres. His albums have been critically lauded, and received the highest honors.
Born in New York City, Mark Isham was exposed to all types of music through his parents who were musicians themselves. The young Isham began studies in piano and violin, but it was the trumpet that captured his imagination. While at one of his mother’s concert rehearsals, Isham was struck by the members of the trumpet section. Isham explained, “They sat in the back and played loud. And they seemed like the coolest guys in the whole place!” The trumpet became his signature instrument.
The Ishams moved from NYC to San Francisco, and by the age of 15 Mark was playing his horn in jazz clubs simultaneously performing with The Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies. Word of Isham’s talent continued to spread as he played in different bands, ultimately forming his own band Group 87.
Mark Isham’s career as a successful musician was about to open a door to his next calling…film composer. Already an established performer and recording artist, he began to experiment with electronic music and incorporated it into several of his albums, earning a reputation as a live and electronic instrumentalist. In 1983 Isham received critical-acclaim as a solo artist with the release of his debut album Vapor Drawings. He circulated a demo album intended for ECM Records, but fortuitously catching the attention of Film Director Carroll Ballard. Ballard was searching for a new sound for a project and came across Isham’s music. He was impressed by the unique approach and hired Isham to compose Disney’s critically acclaimed Never Cry Wolf.
Mark Isham began to traverse the musical landscape of performing musician and film composer and continues to do so today. His distinctive trumpet voice remains in-demand. His signature sound is heard on albums of music icons including Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Ziggy Marley, Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, Chris Isaak, and Van Morrison. His solo recordings span from electronica and classic jazz to hip-hop and ethnic world music. Mark Isham has received worldwide critical-acclaim including a Grammy for his Virgin Records release, Mark Isham. He has received Grammy nominations for his albums Castalia and Tibet as well as for the film scores of A River Runs Through It and Men of Honor.
Though renowned for his work in the electronic and New Age genres, Mark Isham is perhaps most recognized for his contributions to the world of jazz. Isham has collaborated and performed with jazz legends including Horace Silver, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Bobby McFerrin. His jazz releases have received worldwide praise. Mark Isham’s 1995 release, Blue Sun, was chosen by Downbeat as one of the “Top 100 Jazz Albums of the Decade.” Isham’s album, Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project was named “Best Jazz Album of 1999″ — London Times. Recorded live, the album is Isham’s reinterpretation of material from Miles Davis’ late ’60s – early ’70s phase which had a significant impact on Isham as a developing musician.
As a prolific film composer, Mark Isham continues to demonstrate his diverse musical voice with over one hundred film scores including Warrior, Dolphin Tale, The Lucky One, Eight Below, The Cooler, Blade, Save the Last Dance, and The Secret Life of Bees. His recent credits include the Jackie Robinson biopic 42. Isham’s suite from the film 42 was premiered by the New York Philharmonic on July 13, 2013 during the MLB Sandy Relief Concert featuring Mariah Carey in Central Park.
Isham also co-composed the score to The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete with Alicia Keys, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January. In addition to returning for the third season of ABC’s hit series Once Upon A Time, he is also scoring ABC’s newest series Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. This November, Isham’s score can be heard on the Jason Statham-James Franco feature thriller Homefront. Currently, Isham is working on the music for Frank Darabont’s TNT original series Mob City, premiering on December 4, 2013.
Last year, Mark Isham’s musical disciplines would once again intersect; his original film scores were performed live with full orchestras and choirs in Spain, where he served as musical guest of honor, and Poland, where he was named President of the Festival at the Transatlantyk Film and Music Festival. Performing on trumpet during several concerts during the festivals, Isham received standing ovations in both countries. No matter the genre, medium, or venue, Mark Isham displays a boundless ability to electrify the listener with his talent for crafting evocative new musical works.