Four-time Grammy Jazz nominee Mark "Notesmith" Williams creates his own lane as a musician, producer, and educator. He shreds his trombone through all music boundaries with a distinctive, soaring sound. The Mark Williams sound. His vision as a producer is uniquely his own, fusing hard bop jazz with hip hop hooks to create the Notesmith beat. Mark’s invaluable work as a teacher/professor to a younger generation of musicians spurs creativity and knowledge to all he mentors.
“A consummate trombonist…. Little brother reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age.” Curtis Fuller, NEA recipient and Jazz Trombone legend.
The Brooklyn native attended both Juilliard MAP’s Program and the famed LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, earning him a full scholarship to prestigious Howard University. While an undergrad, he caught the ear of Chuck Brown, the Godfather of the Washington, DC sound known as “Go-Go”. At age 20, Mark was hired after a one show audition. He balanced studies with playing on the road with Brown for six years, an education that wasn’t taught in the classroom. Williams completed both his BA(Music Education)/and MA(Jazz Studies) at Howard while concurrently playing in one of the most iconic bands in music history.
"One of the most talented musicians I have ever had in my band."
- Chuck Brown
After leaving Brown, Mark was recruited by the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. He’s been their trombonist for the past decade, earning his 3rd Grammy nomination for his playing on CBO’s “Live at Birdland”(2022). Mark was also a trombonist on the highly praised The Baylor Project,(2022 Grammy nominated album) as his innovative sound helped create an intersection of jazz, blues, and gospel.
The “Notesmith” has also performed or recorded with Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Brad Paisley, Abdullah Ibrahim, Natalie Cole, Kool and the Gang, Demi Lovato, The Skatalites, Talib Kweli, Music Soulchild, David Murray, The Roots , Macy Gray, Orrin Evans, Twyla Tharp, Harry Connick, Chris Martin(Coldplay),Common, CeeLo Green, Ben Williams, Marc Cary, and Lauren Hill.
Mark has played trombone and keyboards for legendary DJ Premier(Gang Starr) and his ongoing Badder Band project since 2015, evolving his signature “Notesmith” sound into the hip-hop/rap universe. One of their collaborations was theme music commissioned by the NBA for playoffs games.
Mark performs occasionally for the prestigious Smithsonian Jazz Masters Orchestra, an educational “moving artifact” that plays shows and does Master Class teaching sessions for youngsters worldwide. While teaching at the Manhattan Charter School(3rd-5th grade), he established the first New Orleans style jazz band for students in NYC.
In addition to performing as a sideman, Mark continues to compose, arrange, and headline with his own group. He received a $10,000 prize from Bertelsman for his composition "It's Yours” and was selected to participate in the prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program based on his imaginative compositions. Recently, he was invited to play with “Jazz House Kids”, by star bassist Christian McBride. Jazz House Kids is an arts organization dedicated to educating children through jazz. He’s also on faculty teaching a music improvisation course at NYC’s famous New School University.
Mark’s ongoing “Brass in the Class” workshops continue to be a cultural touchstone for him and the community. He is committed to bringing the arts to inner city schools, creating a hands-on approach to enriching grade school youngsters with artistic skills and cultural knowledge to gift them with life lessons.
An in-demand A-list player, emerging producer, and selfless educator, Mark “Notesmith” Williams is a rare gem of a musician.