Mark Donlon was born in London. He trained as a classical pianist and composer at the Purcell School and subsequently at The Royal Academy of Music. He became interested in Jazz after a ‘road to Damascus’ moment involving listening to (and subsequently transcribing) recordings of the pianist Wynton Kelly. He went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama as a postgraduate Jazz Student, where he studied with Lionel Grigson, John Taylor, and Ian Carr. He subsequently undertook further study in Composition and Musicology at the University of London. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2017 in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the music profession.

He has been highly active and successful in pursuing a career as a professional Jazz musician, composer, conductor and educator in the UK and abroad. He has worked with his own groups and performed with many of the most important figures in the British contemporary Jazz scene including, amongst numerous others, Kenny Wheeler, Norma Winstone, Tim Garland, Don Weller, Jim Mullen, Dudu Pukwana, and Christine Tobin.

He has performed with a number of high-profile Jazz musicians from the USA such as Dave Leibman, the legendary New York-based Grammy Award-winning flautist Dave Valentine, Frank Wess, Ali Ryerson, Fred Wesley, Clay Jenkins and Maceo Parker. Current projects include a quintet with Alex Sipiagin and Seamus Blake as well as classical crossover projects with Israeli-born Cellist Inbal Meggido and Ukrainian violinist Yuri Gesventsey. He has recently produced an album of original music, ‘Shadowbird’ with outstanding musicians from Australasia - including award-winning Saxophonist Jamie Oehlers.

Since 1990, he became intensively involved in Latin-Jazz and Cuban Music, and is a leading exponent of this specialised field of music in the UK. He has worked as performer and composer/arranger with leading Latin-Jazz and Salsa groups from Europe and the USA such as Mistura, Connexion Latina, Orquesta La Clave, and Grupo X. For a number of years he held the piano chair in Roberto Pla’s Latin Jazz Ensemble, which is widely regarded as being one of the top Latin Jazz groups in Europe.

He has also performed with a number of legendary Latin Music figures from the USA and Latin America such as Willie Gonzalez, Jesus Alemany, Tito Allen, Carlos Manuel, the Big Three Palladium Orchestra and the historically-distinguished Brazilian drummer Dom um Ramao.

More recently, in between undertaking his busy schedule as an academic, he has been involved in a number of high-profile performances in international Jazz festivals and conferences in Ireland, Istanbul, Canada, Portugal, and France - and has appeared as a solo performer, (for example giving a solo concert in Carcassonne, France).

He recently released a CD of improvised pieces for solo piano - ‘Southern Shift’ - on the Fuzzymoon label, to critical acclaim in the UK press (see reviews). The CD received extensive airplay on UK radio stations such as ‘The Jazz’ and Classic FM. The 2007 album ‘Ashia’ was also featured as album of the week on the Classic FM Jazz Jury programme.

In 2004 he founded the CUK Big Band, an elite ensemble of students hand-picked from among the most gifted students undertaking Jazz courses at UK conservatoires. A highlight was a concert representing the UK at the IAJE conference in Toronto in 2008. The concert included the world premiere of a new work for Jazz orchestra and soloists, ‘The Jig Saw’ by Kenny Wheeler. Kenny Wheeler and Norma Winstone were the soloists in this performance. Mark’s own work ‘IMC’ was also performed in this concert with Tim Garland as soloist. The tour was supported by funding from the Arts Council and Jazz Services.

As musical director of the CUK Big Band he has directed premieres of new works commissioned from high-profile Jazz composers including Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs, Bob Minzer, Tim Garland and Julian Joseph. He has also conducted a number of concerts of music by Maria Schneider.

He composed three substantial new works commissioned by the PRS/Creative Exchange project: ‘IMC’ (2005) ‘Matanzas’ (2006) and ‘Dark Matter’ (2007) and has also composed commissions for the Associated Board Jazz syllabus.

with cuk band at IAJE concert pegfile