Native Detroiter Mark Mixx is part of a younger generation of Detroit jazz artists dedicated to pushing the music forward. He's just produced and released a record on his own label. The Street Jazz Cartel project is composed of Mark Mixx (percussion and keys), Johnny Barnes (trumpet), Steve Cooley (trumpet), Wayne White (keys), Issac Pippen (keys), Jeff Canady (drums), Antonio Johnson (drums) Deblone Jackson (flute), Marty Montgomery (sax), Charles Jones (trombone), Stevo (bass), Derrick Bartel (guitar), Eddie Taylor (trumpet), and Randal Wilson (guitar). We spoke with him about his upcoming release and where he feels he fits into Detroit's jazz community.
Metro Times: What drew you to jazz versus other musical forms of expression?
Mark Mixx: I love all music. I started producing street jazz when I figured out how to incorporate my hip-hop production roots into the music.
MT: How have you grown over the last 16 years?
Mixx: I can see the growth in my production as far as certain techniques I utilize, and from listening to some of the older arrangements from 1970s music, which I enjoy listening to every day.
MT: How do you feel about the current state of jazz? Many worry that its impact on the musical culture has diminished. What are your thoughts?
Mixx: I feel like to a certain degree it has been dismissed. Jazz fans were tired of hearing the same structured jazz songs. Now, with how the jazz stations started closing down — going off air — I have no clue, and totally don't understand that! But jazz will never die. Music is for the soul.
MT: Your new single is "Sugar." What can listeners expect from the upcoming album? What's the name and when will it be released?
Mixx: "Ryde Wit Me III" is a song that will be the first single from our fourth release, The Book of Mark IV. It's just a feel-good song: heavy bottom, great horn, and string arrangements with the piano on top. I made that record for fans to feel good and happy and to enjoy themselves. I got risky on this album, meaning it's no rules this time. It's just solid funky bass lines, drum patterns, and etc. The album is due out this summer.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the Detroit jazz scene? How do you see it progressing?
Mixx: How I feel? Hmmm, let's see, I don't really like the way the Detroit jazz scene is. It's too clique-ish for me. What I mean is, people don't step outside their comfort zone. A lot of these artists and groups sound alike. Detroit is known for trailblazing in the jazz scene, and somehow I feel we got away from that. The only way I see it progressing is if we start coming together as artists and groups and throwing our own concerts. Because promoters tend to keep bringing these same acts month after month, and year after year. Detroit has a lot of great talent that's not being heard nor seen, so we have to change that.