Christopher Mark Jones
The songwriter saga pretty much started in Paris about 1976, when Christopher found that all he wanted to do was sing and play the guitar.
He had spent a half-dozen years playing professional basketball (in Portugal) and studying languages (Portuguese, French, Spanish) and was enrolled at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris at the time where he was studying Chinese. He coasted to a degree in that program, while playing in restaurants and the Metro, then headed out for London to do music full-time, joining a friend of his in a squat in Central London. The folk revival was going full-speed in the UK, and there were lots of clubs where you could go do three songs for free and have some chance of being hired back for a few quid. He also got a regular gig at Bunjies, a tiny little club in the West End. He met a Welshman named Mick Linnard, a guitarist who enjoyed playing his tunes, and they became traveling partners. He played a showcase spot at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where a singer named Rosie Hardman heard him and recommended him to Bill Leader, a legendary producer (Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Nic Jones among others), who had a deal with Transatlantic Records to issue records under his imprint.
The album they did together (see Recordings) with contributions from Mick, Christopher’s brother Jeff, Gerald Moore, who was a popular club guitarist in London and Pick Withers on drums (Dire Straits) had some success. The album was licensed in five countries in Europe and getting some decent reviews, but it came out at the same time that punk hit in London and the reception for acoustic songwriters was at an all-time low in the UK.
After moving back to the US in 1979, he had a look at the potential for work in the Boston area, and started putting together a band, mostly called the Regulars, which worked consistently for several years with excellent musicians (Andre Locke of Mandrake, Reeves Gabrels who ended up with David Bowie’s Tin Machine) and paid starvation wages.
When he and wife Linda had two sons, Tanner and Max, he turned his language background into a Ph.D in French literature and became a very part-time musician until they left home. He taught at Bentley College in Waltham, then Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, where he stayed for 25 years, doing research in the French-speaking cultures of the world (especially popular music) and developing technology-enhanced language courses.
In roughly 2002, he started playing regularly with a couple of NYC ex-pats named Jonah Winters (clarinet) and Sally Denmead, (cigar-box uke) who had a fetish for Tin Pan Alley tunes from the 30s and 40s. The tunes had lots of changes, he got some guitar chops back together and eventually moved on to playing more blues and jazz-based material with Jack Bowen on piano and Jim Spears on bass in a group they called the Uptown Combo. That allowed him to spread out on guitar and learn a whole catalogue of new tunes–never a bad thing. When he had assembled the digital toybox needed to do an album for the Uptown Combo, he got the acoustic guitar out and realized that he’d like to do some recording of original material as well. The resulting album—“Heartland Variations”—signified a singer-songwriter renaissance. He then re-mastered the Transatlantic (UK) album “No More Range to Roam,” which is now available on CD. Three additional recordings of new songs have since followed, including “Suburban 2-Step,” released in April of 2012, 2014’s “Atlantica” and 2017’s “Incantations.”
While he continues to travel and perform in formats ranging from solo to full band, he is also working with songwriter friends to promote concerts in Pittsburgh and is working on a variety of projects in his own studio as both producer and engineer.
For updated information on performances and recordings, go to: www.christophermarkjones.com/