Marc Black is an eclectic folk-rocker who carries the Woodstock tradition of dealing with life with all its social and political challenges…one song at a time. He’s been hailed by noted folk artist Happy Traum for his “timeless” songs featuring “deep grooves, excellent playing [and] top-notch guitar and vocals.”
Marc’s subjects include MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, good coffee, and just about everything in between. His fingerstyle blues is reminiscent of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins. And his recent CD, Pictures of the Highway, reached No. 6 on the Folk DJ Chart.
Marc and his Guild D40 spend most of their time on the road—playing festivals, clubs, arts centers, libraries, and house concerts. He was named Folk Artist of the Year on ABC Radio’s Fame Games and was a finalist in the prestigious Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition. Sometime a Spark, his song about Mohamed Bouazizi and the Arab Spring, caused an international stir that led to an interview on Tunisian State Radio.
While still in high school, his band, the Blades of Grass, reached the Top Forty and performed alongside the biggest acts of the day including the Doors, Van Morrison, and Neil Diamond. He has since recorded more than a dozen CDs including one “pick hit” in Billboard magazine and another that was recognized as a “minor masterpiece” by famed music producer John Hammond, Sr.
After moving to New York City in the 1980s, Marc won the American Library Association Award for Best Children’s Album for producing American Children, a collaboration with such talented artists as the late Richie Havens, Taj Mahal, and the late Rick Danko.
ASCAP has featured Marc in performance at the Sundance Film Festival, and several of his YouTube videos have been viewed more than 50,000 times!
Over the past couple of years, Marc has occasionally turned to a more topical songwriting style. One tune, No Fracking Way—recorded with John Sebastian and Eric Weissberg (of “Dueling Banjos” fame) along with some one hundred Woodstock citizens—has been sung at rallies as far away as South Africa, Ireland, and Australia.
Born in Wausau, Wisconsin, in 1938, Warren Bernhardt was exposed to music and to the piano at an early age. His father was a pianist and teacher and a close friend to other pianists, among them the Russian virtuoso Josef Lhevinne, who actually gave Warren his very first training at the keyboard. In 1957, following his father’s untimely death, Warren left music behind for several years while he majored in organic chemistry and physics at the University of Chicago. While living in this city rich in the traditions of jazz and blues, he once again became entranced with music—this time with the fresh and exciting jazz improvisations of Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Miles Davis, Wynton Kelly, and especially with the work of John Coltrane and pianist Bill Evans. Soon thereafter, Warren joined the touring jazz sextet of saxophonist Paul Winter, and in 1962 the legendary John Hammond of Columbia Records brought the sextet to New York to record. Warren soon became very good friends with Evans, who became a mentor as well as a good friend until his death in 1980.
Warren has remained in the New York area ever since, recording and touring as a jazz pianist, accompanist, sideman, arranger, producer, and bandleader. He received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) Most Valuable Player Award for acoustic piano on four different occasions. Warren has toured and recorded with Jack DeJohnette, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Kenny Burrell, Jeremy Steig, Mike Mainieri, Gary McFarland, David “Fathead” Newman, George Young, and Kazumi Watanabe, among others, and he has accompanied Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Donald Fagen, Carly Simon, Tim Hardin, James Brown, Richie Havens, Don McLean, Michael Franks, Linda Ronstadt, Patti LuPone, and Liza Minnelli.
After recording several albums as a leader on the Arista label in the late 1970s, Warren served as keyboardist and co-leader of the well-known jazz fusion group Steps Ahead from 1983 to 1985. Since then he has focused primarily on his own concerts and recordings and has conducted jazz workshops at the State University of New York in New Paltz. He was the pianist with the Steely Dan band on their historic 1993 and 1994 tours of the US and Japan, and served as their musical director. In the spring of 1996, Warren recorded a three-CD set of solo performances: a CD of classical works, a CD of jazz standards, and a CD of original compositions and improvisations. These have been released on Warren’s own label, Big Guy Sounds (BGS). From 1983 through 2003, he recorded eight albums of his own on the Digital Music Products (DMP) label. He considers all of these recordings to be the best examples of his work, and calls them all “labors of love.”
From 1995 through 2005, Warren frequently accompanied singer Art Garfunkel all over the world, and in 2003 and 2004 he played with Simon and Garfunkel on their “Old Friends” tours of the United States and Europe. In 2007 and 2008, Warren took what he calls “a sabbatical” and went back to school full-time to study Pilates. After graduating, he taught Pilates at The Moving Body studio in Woodstock, New York. Late in 2008, a band that Warren co-led back in the seventies, L’image, came alive again and recorded their first-ever CD, called 2.0. The other band members are vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, drummer and percussionist Steve Gadd, bassist Tony Levin and guitarist David Spinozza.
Warren went out again with Simon and Garfunkel for their 2009 tour of New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. After that came a L’image tour of Japan (also recorded live) and another stay at the Iridium jazz club in New York. Warren travelled to Japan in September of 2010 to participate in a much-heralded reunion of guitarist Kazumi Watanabe’s To-Chi-Ka band at the Tokyo Jazz Festival. NHK filmed a DVD of that concert. Warren, together with Mike Mainieri and Watanabe also recorded a CD called Lotus Night while they were together in Tokyo the same week.
Warren lives with his wife, Jan, in the Hudson Valley and spends his summers in northern Wisconsin.