I have had and continue to have the great pleasure of playing with some of the very best musicians and performers. Below are some collages of the time we spent and the music we played together .
Bela, Tony, John
Tim, Nickel Creek
After my five year stint with Tony Rice I joined Tim O'Brien who had recently left the prominent bluegrass band, Hot Rize to launch his own solo career with a new record deal on RCA. As is often the case with major labels, there was a change of management and Tim got dropped from the label. He launched The O'Boys which was an acoustic power trio with me, Scott Nygaard, and Tim on mandolin, bazouki, and fiddle. Tim is another force to be reckoned with in the acoustic music world. He's stylistically versatile, he has a beautiful, powerful voice, he writes songs with depth and subtelty that range from humorous flings to heartbreak, political satire, and soaring, hopeful love songs. And he's got a groove when he plays that's a mile deep. I toured with him from 1990 to 1998, often joined by his sister, Mollie who shared the family gene for virtuosic vocalizing. This melange starts with selections from the several recordings I did with him. One of my favorite CDs to this day is a collection of Bob Dylan songs that he did acoustic versions of called Red on Blond.
In 1998 Tim disbanded The O'Boys to have more flexibility in his touring. I freelanced for the next several years, falling into a number of wonderful playing scenarios. I did a number of gigs with Tony Rice and Peter Rowan, a very colorful performer, singer, and writer. It was in this time period that I worked with John Hartford. I also assembled my own band, Mark Schatz and Friends to feature my own tunes and clawhammer banjo playing that included the killer rhythm section of Jim Hurst on guitar and Missy Raines on bass, and a new kid in town, Casey Driessen on fiddle. This culminated in my second solo CD, Steppin' in the Boiler House.
I got a call in 2003 from acoustic innovators Nickel Creek. They were making a change in personnel and asked if I wanted to audition. Though I was many years their senior, some of their music was a bit of a stretch for me technically. I have some range, and a deep love of a good groove, but I never developed the chops of a good classical or jazz player. But I'm a serious musician who's not afraid of a challenge so I jumped in with both feet, worked really hard on their inventive, energetic, and unique blend of bluegrass, rock, classical, and bits of many other things, and got the gig. This was a new experience for me - a tour bus, road manager, both front of house and monitor engineers, and sizeable, screaming young crowds. It was a huge energy rush, and was what I called a “two hands on the wheel” gig - it required constant focus. I worked with them until they bid "farewell for now" in 2007. I recorded Why Should the Fire Die with them in this time period. They called me for a reunion tour in 2014 and I played on Dotted Line which was recorded to support that tour. The snippets here are drawn from both of those projects.
Linda, Emmy, Claire, Sarah
I got a call from Seldom Scene alum and king of finding the great songs, John Starling, in September, 1999 to go to Tucson to play a couple of shows with Linda Ronstadt, who was officially in retirement at the time, but she would do shows at the Waldorf school that her daughter attended to help raise money for them. I'd always been a huge fan of hers but there was nothing that could have prepared me to be in the same room with that liquid, rich, expressive voice. We rehearsed for a couple of days at her home/hacienda, and as is often the case, the rehearsals were as much, if not more gratifying than the shows themselves. The other band members were John, Carl Jackson on guitar & vocals, and Sam Bush on mandolin and fiddle. Linda's niece was singing some high harmony, and Emmylou Harris showed up as a surprise and sang harmony as well. I knew it would always be a musical high point for me. This collection starts with some short segments of songs from that show.
As Nickel Creek was winding down, Missy Raines was preparing to leave The Claire Lynch Band to launch her own solo career. Jim Hurst approached me at the Rocky Grass Festival to see if I wanted the bass job. I'd been aware of Claire for years but wasn't that familiar with her artistry. I sat a listened closely to their set there and was mesmerized by her singing, songs, and stage presence - she had a lot of class! I got together with her and Jim while in Nashville with Nickel Creek a month or so later and we all agreed that it was a good fit. A good groove and good singing is lifeblood to me. Jim's a groovy somebody, and Claire is one of the very best singers in the business. There's heart, range and depth of emotion there, and some superlative songwriting. She's also generous, collaborative, and just a bunch of fun to be around. I'm very proud of the four projects I recorded with her, and there are snippets from those recordings in this selection. The last of these recordings, North By South, is a tribute to Canadian songwriters, and is Grammy nominated.
We all knew that Sarah Jarosz was a gifted artist from early on. She's another of those triple threats - singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She was already recording for Sugar Hill and touring full time in the summer in her college years. As someone she'd grown up listening to, I was called to play on selected tracks on her first two solo CDs, and felt honored to be included. I played all of the bass on her most recent recording, Undercurrent, which is also Grammy nominated.
I met Bela Fleck around 1977 in Boston at an old-time jam session. He was playing with the Boston based progressive bluegrass band, Tasty Licks, and I was in my last couple of years of study at Haverford College outside of Philadelphia. I was coming back to Boston as much as possible because I'd fallen in love with a dancer in the folk dance group Mandala with whom I'd played with the previous year when I took a year off and studied at Berklee College of Music. When I was in Boston we'd get together and play jazz standards - he on banjo and me on mandolin. I was able to combine my nascent fiddle tune chops with the rudimentary jazz harmony I'd learned at Berklee to keep up with Bela who was already a banjo phenom at age 17 or 18. I eventually joined Tasty Licks on bass with a strong vote from Bela, we went on the Kentucky together to play in a band called Spectrum, and I played on his first two solo projects, Crossing the Tracks and Natural Bridge. He called on me to join the juggernaut Bluegrass aggregation of Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Tony Rice for landmark recordings Drive (joined as well by Mark O'Connor here) and The Bluegrass Sessions. This band appeared at a handful of festivals and legendary club The Birchmere over a span of several years and I considered myself a very lucky guy to be part of the cream of that generation of bluegrass music, sometimes called New Acoustic Music. This project leads off with a few snippets of tunes from these recordings.
After trying to learn the ropes of the country music scene in Nashville from around 1981-1985, I got a call from Jimmy Gaudreau, with whom I'd played with in Spectrum, asking if I wanted to do weekend of shows at the Birchmere with Tony Rice, one of the iconic bluegrass guitar players and singers of our time. Tony apparently liked my playing and subsequently called and asked if I wanted to play some more shows with him. I had my head wrapped around trying to be an electric bass player for a major country act, and told him as much. To his credit, he was totally chill and just said that he'd call, and if I was available I was welcome to come play with him. After a handful of shows my better sense finally kicked in and I committed full-time to the gig, eventually becoming Tony's Road Manager and good friend. The next snippets in the project are from Tony's recordings Me and My Guitar and Native American. The sound of his voice and guitar still really get to me - there's real undefinable magic there!
I had the unique good fortune to be able to play a number of shows with the great entertainer, song writer, multi-instrumentalist, flatfooter, story teller, river boat captain John Hartford. This guy was a true original and he was huge inspiration to me and pretty much everyone else in the acoustic music world. The last snippet in the project is from a song of his from his Good Old Boys recording that I played on.