Tyler Smith | Denver, CO United States | 03/21/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Those first coming to "The Marksman" will note a few words to the listener from none other than George Benson, who speaks warmly of Mark Whitfield by way of introduction. That's appropriate for this fine 1990 release in that Whitfield's warm, tuneful and swinging sound proudly descends from Benson's. Like Benson before him, Whitfield has in recent years, dipped more than a toe into the more commercial pop market, although obviously with less success than his mentor has enjoyed.That said, "The Marksman" is a thoroughly enjoyable set of performances, a straight-ahead session that simmers along nicely with nary a false note. Not that the music lacks an edge. For example, the title tune, as well as "Medgar Evars' Blues," and "Little Digi's Strut" all swing tightly, pushed along by three Wynton Marsalis cohorts, Marcus Roberts (piano), Herlin Riley (drums) and Reginald Veal (bass). All three had already cut their teeth with Marsalis and (in Roberts' case) on their own, but they play tightly with Whitfield, and the date sounds like a quartet rather than a stale get-together of session musicians.There is also an unforced tribute to the blues, "The Blues, From Way Back," on which Whitfield stretches out with a mellow tone that still manages to retain a touch of grit. A follow-up release, "True Blue," reiterated that Whitfield comes to the blues -- and gospel as well -- naturally, not as an affectation. Veal's walking bass on this cut is a delight.Whitfield registers one more very strong impression for me on "The Marksman." When he takes on the standard "The Very Thought of You," he approaches the melody of the tune -- which is lovely -- with straight, nearly unembellished single notes. He's "singing" the tune. That's great when a jazz musician feels the confidence to let the tune speak for itself and set aside his chops for a couple of minutes. His solo performance on "Namu" and interpretation of "In a Sentimental Mood" show a similar willingness to favor melody and tunefulness over flash.One often finds Whitfield's releases (including this one,unfortunately) in bargain bins these days, and I'm not sure why. Certainly "The Marksman" and several of his other releases deserve a better fate."
Groovy jazz guitar
Anders Jonasson | Bankeryd Sweden | 04/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Aleady here in 1990 one can say without any exxageration that Whitfield was a true groove master with no real technical restrictions and with what Wes Montgomery use to say."a very nice definition" in his single note lines.Whitfield is mostly using "down picking" that is what gives this nice definition..you can hear every note clearly even hwn he plays at the "speed of lightning".It refreshing to hear how Whitfield constructs his lines...like when he start of the dom 7th scale on the 6 th..it gives a nice lyrical touch to his playing.
Even though Whitfield at times can be perceived as a "speed demon" he clearly comes out of the Grant Green-George Benson school" where groove and swing was the essential thing, quite different to more modern players of today.
Otherwise I ref to the very insightful review below by Tyler Smith."
jazz neophyte | Baltimore, MD | 08/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This talented Berklee educated guitarist excels in both the jazz and R&B genres. On this first solo effort, and joined by Marcus Roberts on piano, Reginald Veal on acoustic bass, Troy Davis and Herlin Riley on drums, and recorded and mixed by the legendary Al Schmitt, Mark showcases his skills on 9 tracks, ranging from the blues -"The Blues, From Way Back" and "Medgar Evers' Blues" to the smooth and sultry "In A Sentimental Mood" and "A Long Way From Home." The two tracks that showcase this George Benson influenced guitarist to me are "The Marksman" and "There Is No Greater Love."
If you want to hear Mark at his improvisational best, buy his record "Raw." And then if you prefer lush orchestrated tunes buy "Patrice." This guy can do it all. If you ever get a chance to see Mark in concert (he's on tour with trumpeter Chris Botti) you'll witness a musical love fest. And if you ever get a chance to meet him you'll find one of the kindest, friendliest and most personal guys on our musical planet. It's a win-win combination."