Insider Interview: Mark Dover, clarinetist
February 12, 2019
On Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 7:00 pm, Chris Grymes’ Open G Series at National Sawdust (80 North 6th St., Brooklyn) presents Port Mande, the clarinet and piano duo consisting of Mark Dover and Jeremy Jordan. In this Insider Interview, we spoke with clarinetist Mark Dover about the upcoming program. More info online at nationalsawdust.org.
Classical Music Communications: How was Port Mande formed?
Mark Dover: Jeremy Jordan and I have been close friends and collaborators since 2013. Even though a lot of our projects and concerts involve more than just the two of us, we’ve always felt that our work as a duo is the real foundation of all of our music. Coming primarily from the classical world we wanted to think of a way to take the simple idea of a clarinet and piano duo and expand the olive branch as far as we could.
CMC: Both you and Jeremy seem to have very deep backgrounds in classical music. How does that inform your performances of the non-classical pieces?
MD: It really works both ways. For me personally I almost feel like my background in jazz and improvised music informs my classical music performances almost as much or even more. There’s a sense of once you know learn something musically and really know it, you can’t unknow it, and you can’t really set it aside, it will always be a part of you. In terms of my classical roots informing everything else, my sense of time is definitely apparent. In chamber music we are taught the art of rubato, of moving between the notes and the barlines, and I think my original music has a deep sense of that. And then definitely aspects of 19th and 20th century European harmony are very present in my music and arrangements. Then again that’s present in probably all music these days!
CMC: Looking at the program, it’s clear your musical interests spread far. How do you keep these pieces connected together in a program like this? Is there a common theme?
MD: I think the theme is always playing music that speaks to us. There’s not necessarily anything deeper to it than that in this program. Although one thing we try to relay to all our audiences is that this music is actually more similar than it is different. It’s all really connected through the lineage of our musical ancestors.
CMC: Tell me about your collaborators for this program, POES and Faylotte Crayton. Have you worked with them before? Do they share your diverse taste in music? What will they bring to the program?
MD: Well Faylotte Crayton is my wife, so there’s that! She’s an incredible soprano, went to Juilliard and then Bard for her masters where she studied at Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts Program. She has a sound that really just gets right to your gut, full of raw emotion. I say that totally objectively! And POES is an amazing rapper from Washington Heights that Jeremy and I met a few years back. He’s a real poet, and raps about justice and equality, and about his identity as a Dominican family man trying to make it in a very competitive scene. He has a flow that is just so smooth, and even though he doesn’t play an instrument or read music you can just hear his musicianship in his phrasing. Both of them definitely share our taste in music, but they primarily work in their own genres of opera/art song and hip hop. Which is beautiful for us because we get to insert them into our crazy world and the results are really exciting.
CMC: How do you find time to compose (in addition to a busy career with Imani Winds and as a clarinet soloist)?
MD: I’m always trying to be near a keyboard. I always compose from the piano. Even on the road I’ll drive the Imanis crazy with my backstage noodling. It’s cathartic to me to write music, so it really doesn’t feel like work. Especially since I’m usually drowning in a sea of chamber music pieces that need to be learned in a very short amount of time.
CMC: Do you have any favorites amongst your own compositions audiences will hear at the April 6 concert?
MD: I wrote a song entitled This is Loss that was written during a very difficult time in my life. It was only performed once before, so I’m really looking forward to digging into that.
CMC: What do you hope audiences will get out of coming to this concert?
MD: I hope audiences will leave feeling drunk with new sounds! And I hope they feel like if nothing else, they’ve had a musical experience that was very different from the concerts they’ve attended in the past. That’s all we could ever hope for!