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Vocalist, trumpeter with Metheny, othersby Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins
Mark Ledford, a quadruple threat as vocalist, trumpeter, guitarist and drummer, died of heart disease on November 1st, 2004. He was 44 years old. The bald-pated Ledford had made a name for himself in the past several years through his work with Pat Metheny, Bobby McFerrin, Mary J. Blige, Eliane Elias and other artists.
Ledford came up in Detroit, where he studied violin and trumpet and gained some notoriety as a Michael Jackson impersonator. After graduating from Berklee in 1982 he maintained a busy schedule between New York and Boston: the "Sarafina!" house band, advertising work, and jobs with the likes of Stephanie Mills, Jon Hendricks, Special EFX, Michael Brecker, Kevin Eubanks, Don Byron, Prince and Bill Evans. He contributed to a number of film soundtracks, including Spike Lee's "Mo' Better Blues" and "Do the Right Thing". Ledford's interest in African music led to work with Youssou N'Dour, Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and bassist Bakithi Kumalo.
In 1986 Ledford began his sporadic association with Pat Metheny. Tracks like "Last Train Home" and "Finding and Believing" were highlighted by his remarkable vocal range. 1992's "Miles 2 Go" (PolyGram), Ledford's only album as a leader, showcased his trumpet technique which drew inspiration from Miles Davis's full career. More recently he had worked Bobby McFerrin's Circle, an a cappella vocal group, and vibraphonist Joe Locke's Storytelling project.
Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.