Mark began playing trombone at the age of 11. He studied linguistics at University College London from 1979/82 but found time to continue with his trombone studies, taking private lessons with Cliff Hardie. Mark also played in big bands at this time, notably the Brian Booth Jazz Orchestra alongside fellow NYJO alumnus Andy Panayi. In 1983/84 Mark worked in the Central Services department of the BBC, during which time an opportunity arose to join Phil Revens’ Young Jazz. The experience of playing a week at Ronnie Scott’s with this band convinced him to become a professional trombonist.
In 1983 Mark also auditioned successfully for the European Youth Jazz Orchestra and the following year was offered the opportunity to study at Trinity College of Music, where he studied classical trombone with Geoffrey Lindon, composition with Richard Arnell and big band jazz with Bobby Lamb.
In 1985 he was invited, by Mark Nightingale, to join NYJO and, during the subsequent decade, he played with Loose Tubes, Brotherhood of Breath, Mike Westbrook, Stan Tracey, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine.
Mark’s playing encompasses many styles – from swing to bop to more contemporary areas. He has recorded widely with many top jazz artists and groups and has released two albums under his own name: Mark Bassey’s Telling Stories and Bassey Plays Basie.
He has been involved with jazz education for many years, teaching trombone and running classes in harmony, improvisation, composition and arranging at many colleges including the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and also the Jamey Aebersold jazz summer schools.
As a composer Mark has written over 30 big band charts – particularly for NYJO – and many original compositions and commissions, including educational materials for the ABRSM and numerous other pieces for brass and sax ensembles.
Mark was born with no left hand and has fingers missing on his right hand. He wears a split hook on his left arm, which attaches to a piece of leather on his slide, and has a metal digit on his right hand which opposes the real finger. He plays left handed on a Bach 16 with an F attachment, especially fitted by trombone maker Michael Rath, to give him greater ease in reaching 6th and 7th positions.