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Confetti - Your Future

Bass Player Mark Lewandowski Lifts the Lid on His Move From Nuthall to New York

4 December 21 interview: Jared Wilson

After moving from Nuthall to New York, bass player Mark Lewandowski is living the dream on the other side of the pond. We hear about his time in Nottingham, his love for The Big Apple and how School of Rock inspired his passion for music…

Tell us about your early days in Nottingham.
I grew up in Nuthall. My parents are still in the same house we lived in when I was a child. I had a wonderful education at Trinity School in Aspley - they were greatly supportive of me throughout my time there. Nottingham is such a great place to be a young person. There’s such a vibrant nightlife that I think it instilled a love of going out, checking out music and being part of a ‘scene’. I used to hang out at Rescue Rooms or the Bodega all night. 

What got you into music as a child?
When I was at Trinity I started getting into rock - School of Rock had just come out, and I saw the cello player play the bass and that was that. I pestered my parents who gave in and bought me an electric bass. My dad is a big jazz fan. Family vacations would sometimes be to jazz festivals in the UK or Europe. At that time I really wasn’t into that type of music all that much. It was hearing Wynton Marsalis at the Marciac Jazz Festival in the south of France that really was the turning point for me. 

You moved to London to study at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. When was this?
After I left school. I knew music was what I wanted to do full time then - I was serious about it and never had a plan B. I ended up going to Guildhall, mainly because my mate and fellow Nottinghamshire musician Will Glaser went there too. It was great. I started working on the jazz scene in London really quickly and had a wonderful time learning from my idols down in the capital.

You’ve played at the world-famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club quite a few times. What was that like?
My first gig there was when I was sixteen or seventeen. I used to go to their jam sessions pretty much every night when I first moved to London. I’d be out until 3 or 4am five nights a week and would be learning, chatting with older musicians, hanging out and playing. After doing that for a while, I started to get called to play there in the house bands. By the time I left London I was sometimes working there multiple times a week. It’s probably the most respected jazz club in Europe, so it was a real honour.

You played for a while here with local band Manières Des Bohemians. How did you find that?
Those were incredibly happy days for me. It was the first band that played regularly that I was ever part of. It was cool to get into the music of Django Reinhardt. I knew nothing about it before at all. Rob Rosa and the guys took me under their wings and we had a wonderful time playing all around.

I’m really proud to come from Nottingham and my upbringing there was invaluable to where I am now in my life

Was it a big decision to move to New York?
I always wanted to move there. I used to go on Google Street View and electronically walk down the streets! It has all the mystique that surrounds it, and its place in jazz history is second to none. Of course, it was a tough move. I was set up in London with a nice apartment, a dog and so on. Going long distance with my girlfriend was also difficult, although she’s been an angel and is the most supportive partner to me still. We’re married and she lives out here with me now so it all worked out okay.

What’s it like studying at Juilliard School?
Juilliard is regarded as the best music school in the world so it was a privilege to be there. I was part of the Artist Diploma course which was basically just a band. There were six of us - the majority being Europeans who had travelled to NYC to do this course. We rehearsed twice a week, took private study with the faculty and travelled around performing and teaching. It was a great experience overall and a wonderful springboard into the New York scene.

You have recently released the new album Under One Sky. Tell us about that.
My intention with this album is to explore my identity as a British jazz musician living and working in New York. It’s a study in the similarities and differences of living on both sides of the pond, and I’m trying to document the various lessons and experiences that have informed my playing and writing up to this point. 

Is there anything else you would like to say?
I’m really proud to come from Nottingham and my upbringing there was invaluable to where I am now in my life. I hope to come over to the UK much more regularly in the shadow of this awful pandemic. I hear there’s an amazing jazz club called Peggy’s Skylight in Hockley now! I’m desperate to come check that place out as I hear it’s great. Between that, Nottingham Jazzsteps (who I can’t even begin to equate how much I owe for their support and mentorship), and all the other wonderful places to hear and play jazz in Nottingham, it seems like the scene and community is strong. I hope to get back soon, to catch up with old friends and to drink a pint of Legend.

Mark’s latest album, Under One Sky, is now available at his website.

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