Whitecage is an improviser of extraordinary imagination and intensity. While his linear, free-boppish style seems to owe a debt to Ornette Coleman (especially in terms of phrasing), Whitecage is ultimately his own man. A multi-instrumentalist, Whitecage has an ever present sense of what is approriate, switching horns to achieve specific timbral ends. His sound on alto saxophone is enormous and a tad bright; his clarinet work provides a dark contrast. Whitecage's improvised lines defy description, so skilled is he at adapting to the situation at hand. His melodies range from the plaintively lyrical to the aggressively harsh -- from simple to convoluted -- with stops at every possible gradation in between. Whitecage began performing at age six in his father's family band. He got his union card at age 12. Whitecage attained a degree of public notice in the '80s as a member of vibist Gunter Hampel's Galaxy Dream Band and bassist Saheb Sarbib's recording ensemble. He performed at the Kool Jazz Festival in 1982 and Carnegie Recital Hall in 1983 as a member of vocalist Jeanne Lee's ensemble. In 1986 he performed several solo concerts in Europe. In 1988 he began leading two separate bands: Liquid Time and the Glass House Ensemble. His repute increased exponentially in the '90s as he became more active as a performer and recording artist. His self-produced album Mark Whitecage & Liquid Time was chosen by Cadence magazine editor Robert Rusch as one of 1991's best. In 1994 Whitecage became affiliated with the New York City-based Improvisor's Collective, a loose organization that gathered many of the city's most accomplished free jazz musicians for annual festivals and occasional concerts. The 1995 founding of CIMP Records by Rusch led to a number of records by Whitecage, many of them highly acclaimed. The mid-'90s saw Whitecage recording and touring with many of the musicians surrounding the Improvisers Collective, significant among them bassist William Parker, drummer Jackson Krall, and clarinetist Perry Robinson. He also began performing under Anthony Braxton's leadership, playing saxophone in a band that featured Braxton on piano. In 1996 he was a featured soloist in a performance of Braxton's opera "Trillium R" at John Jay Theatre in New York. Whitecage has always been a musician's musician. His peers value him highly. A list of his associates is a Who's Who of New York free jazz in the late '90s: Parker, Braxton, Robinson, Joe Fonda, Dominic Duval, Joe McPhee, and Steve Swell, among many others. By 2000, he had disassociated himself from CIMP, preferring instead to record (prolifically) for his own Acoustics label. In addition to his New York-based activities, Whitecage has become a presence on the European scene, touring the continent with some frequency. Whitecage's wife, Rozanne Levine, is also a noted clarinetist. With Perry Robinson, they form the trio Crystal Clarinets.
Share this page