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Mark Isham

Trumpeter/synth programmer Mark Isham was not only an important part of the Windham Hill stable, but also a successful and versatile composer for film and television, garnering equal acclaim for both his new age and soundtrack work. Born September 7, 1951, to a musical family in New York, Isham began studying classical music (specifically trumpet, piano, and violin) as a child. His family later moved to San Francisco, where Isham played with several local orchestras. However, he was also interested in jazz, pop, and rock music, and moonlighted with a wide variety of local bands; during the '70s, he also learned to program synthesizers. Eventually, he left classical music behind and became a touring and session musician for both jazz (Pharoah Sanders, Charles Lloyd) and pop (the Beach Boys, Van Morrison) artists. He joined jazz pianist Art Lande's Rubisa Patrol quartet, where he displayed a strong Miles Davis influence, and founded a band called Group 87 that played what was essentially contemporary instrumental music years before the term existed as a new age subgenre (they released two albums, the first in 1980). The '80s also saw Isham continue his sideman activities, going on to play with the likes of David Sylvian, Was (Not Was), the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Suzanne Vega, XTC, Joni Mitchell, and Willie Nelson, among many others.

1983 was a pivotal year for Isham: he released his solo debut on Windham Hill, Vapor Drawings, and scored his first film, the Disney release Never Cry Wolf. The first Windham Hill release to emphasize electronics, Vapor Drawings established Isham as a composer adept at blending synthetic and acoustic timbres and became a progressive electronic classic. Meanwhile, Never Cry Wolf quickly led to numerous other soundtrack assignments, demonstrating Isham's facility with a wide variety of musical styles and instrumental settings. Seeking wider exposure by the late '80s, Isham began recording for Virgin, although he continued to release material on Windham Hill as well. He was nominated for Grammys for Best New Age Performance for his albums Castalia (1988) and Tibet (1989), and finally won for 1990's Mark Isham. In 1992, Isham premiered his first commissioned orchestral work, Five Stories for Trumpet and Orchestra, with the St. Louis Symphony, also serving as the soloist. The same year, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his score for A River Runs Through It, which increased Hollywood's demand for his services even further; among his highest-profile assignments in the years to come were Short Cuts, Quiz Show, Kiss the Girls, Blade, the Grammy nominated Men of Honor, Save the Last Dance, Don't Say a Word, Life as a House, and The Majestic. Isham also won an Emmy for his scoring work on the television show EZ Streets, and earned nominations for Chicago Hope and Nothing Sacred. In 1995, Isham released his first album for Columbia, Blue Sun, which found him moving into full-fledged contemporary jazz. He continued in that direction with his next non-soundtrack project, the In a Silent Way tribute/reinterpretation of Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project, issued in 1999. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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grouchorules 2 0 1 2
Saw Mark Isham play many times with Van Morrison's great band in the late 70's and early 80's. He's an astonishingl y good trumpet player. Pee Wee Ellis played sax alongside him. Not a bad horn section.
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I remember this magnificentl y composed music, when I was in Jamaica in the early 80's with my love, Gwen! We had a blast!!! Oh how I tremendously miss her!!
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I haven't seen one comment about the Crash Soundtrack. To me, this is his best work. I feel emotionally drained after listening.
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wmlong5
Mark Isham is the composer of the background music for the ABC TV show Once Upon A Time.
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stevenwdunn
Vapor Drawings is what got me hooked, inspirationa l !
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adrianvidaur r i 7
October Sky needs to be added to his bio. It's one of his best scores
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On the Threshold of Liberty. Magnificent music, talented musician/com p o s e r . 'Nuff said.
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this guy is just too cool.
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Mannex17
nothing from before 1995? Fail.
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like the tinkle of rain drops on my window,as I look for her coming down the lane...
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This is a tension reliever such an amazing talent.
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He composed the soundtrack for Once Upon A Time!!! Obsessed with the show, and the music!
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red05devine
Mark Isham's bio here does not even mention he greatest soundtracks from October Sky
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where's the conspirator?
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this is meant as a complaint sounds like from mid 50s
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stumptowngee z e r
how about a complete dicogrphy
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philippepelu s o
Mark's music has been lifting my spirit higher and higher
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first post trololololol o l o l o l o l o l o
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true stratton
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jtucker961
I always enjoy Mark Isham. Miles to Go is one of my absolute favorite jams. I like what stratton46 said. Describes Mr. Isham's music perfectly.
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marygrider
Divine inspiration!
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stratton46
Isham is timeless, smooth as a fine wine, but with little surpises. You can feel the crunch of acorns under your feet, a bird passing, a wave breaking, or a glimpse of sunlight through the clouds. Thunder is rarely heard, but the lightning is pure.
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dgolnick
Mark Isham's music has made my days better in many many ways. I love this man.
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jmcdonal24
I first noticed his music when he did the film music for Trouble in Mind. The trumpet sound is so distinctive, even small fragments of his music announce him.
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richardebrey e r
I borrowed a piece of my wife with champagne shoulders and made a lullaby out of it. Pity It's not available. And what of Tibet? another fine album MIA.
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@number6 - I too was lucky enough to see the Castalia tour; LOVED it. If that album is as out of print as it seems, that's a minor crime.

As to "My Wife with Champagne Shoulders" - it was the last song I heard when standing on a beach at sunset 22 years ago, observing the anniversary I wasn't having with my wife who'd passed away three months earlier. It was a beautiful - if painful - way to say goodbye.
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arosario457
love! LES MODERNES
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jillclimbs
Mark Isham... My favorite soundtrack composer... ever...
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pumpkinpie54 9 0
my wife with champagne shoulders has been my favorite song for years
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number6
Not everything is my cup of tea but Isham has had some of my favorite moments. The soundtracks to "Crash", "The Beast" and "Romeo is Bleeding" are great. I saw the Castalia tour with Terry Bozzio, Mick Karn, David Torn, Kurt Wortman and David Goldblatt and it may have been the biggest "surprises" of all concerts I have seen - amazing.
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i like his music in THE MIST i thought it was a good movie with good music
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tom6828
"My Wife With Champaign Shoulders" from his CD Castalia is my favorite Isham track. I like all his music!
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brizski
Just rented from Netflix " The Cooler" great movie Excellent Soundtrack Isham and others.
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mustang_jag
I like his music for "Eight Below". He really captures the spirit and enthusiam of the dogs!
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jacksparrow0 2 2
The soundtrack for OCTOBER SKY was particularly beautiful. It would be wonderful to see it on Pandora! Other than that, I haven't heard much of Isham, but he seems interesting.
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Featured on the movie "No Reservations " -- why can't I find "Building a Family" instrumental by Mark Isham, here on pandora?
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muzicricky
I WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO MARK ISHAM'S MUSIC VIA THE OLD WINDHAM HILL MUSIC VIDEOS THAT WERE AIRED YEARS AGO ON THE OLD VH1 PROGRAM "NEW VISIONS." MY FAVORITE SONG OF HIS IS THE PATRIOTIC SOUNDING "ON THE THRESHOLD OF LIBERTY" WHICH WAS RERECORDED BY HIM FOR THE MOTION PICTURE "RULES OF ENGAGEMENT."
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I wholehearted l y agree with cmurphy483. I've been hooked since Vapor Drawings, too. :)
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Mark Isham is an amazing artist! I got hooked with Vapor drawings and have followed his career through to many of the orchestral soundtracks. The Soundtrack to "Crash" was amazing, demonstratin g his versatility. I had the honor of also seeing him perform live at a jazz club in old town Pasadena (the Baked Potato), and that was an experience. Definitely give him several different tries since his music is so diverse - from trumpet and synth to orchestratio n s - it's all good.
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Very thoughtful and subtle music without little borrowings or derivitative s .

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