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Inspired by the life lessons and life legacies of
Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela,
The Dream of The Peaceful Warrior is the debut album of Mark Stephens,
an a-list member of the jazz and pop road warrior elite whose multi-dimensional
keyboard work has anchored concerts around the world for superstars in every genre.
After years of intensely inspired conception, tender loving execution and immaculate fruition, Mark Stephens’ 13-song The Dream of The Peaceful Warrior is an astounding all-star work of spiritual vision and musical fusions featuring special guests Chaka Khan, Andrae’ Crouch, Take 6, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Marcus Miller, Boney James
and the late, great Michael Brecker.
The jazz and soul-kissed music whisks the listener on a magical journey of love and unity
in stylistic genres that span from Africa, Brazil and Cuba
to places that only the imaginations of peace-seeking dreamers can conjure.
“The light of love illuminates the way of truth in every view of God, yet it is only when we consider them all collectively that we truly begin to realize the magnitude that is God.”
Mark’s The Dream of The Peaceful Warrior is a musical parable about a Mythical Warrior
on a divine mission to unite his like-minded brethren within a world of oneness –
a proverbial destination known as the City of Peace. Stephens explains,
“I envisioned this mythical story about a Peaceful Warrior whose
mission is to find a place to build this peaceful city and bring people to it with love and music. “That’s kind of heavy for a jazz record, but it’s really nothing that hasn’t been said before.
It’s a hope and dream shared by many, for a better world someday”.
The centerpiece tune is ‘Sseesamirembe.’
“I wrote this song about a Utopian ideal ‘where all faiths were represented
and where God is known in every way.”
Refracting that spiritual vibration in is a great group of vocalists led by
contemporary gospel legend Andrae’ Crouch, featuring Tata Vega and Kristle Murden
That one song led Stephens on a journey to create a work of heartfelt purpose and musical excellence. In doing so, he crafted an album as forthright in spirituality as it is in musicality, hand-picking musicians from the elite circles in which he travels.
This dazzling who’s who includes Drummers
Vinnie Colaiuta, Gary Novak, Dennis Chambers,
Steve Ferrone, Rayford Griffin, Michael White, Gerry Brown,
Ron Bruner, Jr., “Little John” Roberts and
Bassists Marcus Miller, Alex Al, Sekou Bunch, Larry Kimpel and Melvin Lee Davis, Guitarists A. Ray Fuller, Paul Jackson Jr., Eric Walls, Kevin Chokan,
Allen Hinds and Mick Taras,
and Percussionists Munyungo, Paulinho DaCosta, Lenny Castro,
Luis Conte, Chris Trujillo and Kevin Ricard.
Following a solo piano improvisation (“Prelude”),
The Dream of the Peaceful Warrior begins with “The Light of Love,”
a meditation on how the seed of love was planted within Mark early in life
that features world renowned vocal sextet Take 6
and a Mini Moog synth solo from Mark reminiscent of vintage Chick Corea.
“Groove Junkie” (also the name of Mark’s boutique record label) is a Steely Dan-influenced shuffle featuring singer Karen Bernod, bassist Marcus Miller and trumpeter Walt Fowler. Meanwhile the tropical exhilaration of “Vision Quest”
with its tandem vibraphone/trumpet/saxophone melody lines played by
Suzanne Morissette Cruz, Walt Fowler and Michael Brecker,
respectively - recalls the modern jazz brilliance of Brecker’s
New York City super group Steps Ahead.
“Apaxionado” is a Brazilian love song, sung in Portuguese by Rogerio Jardim.
Its followed by a cover of John Lennon’s timeless “Imagine” featuring singer Quinn,
whom Stephens first worked with in association with Boney James
on a Grammy-winning cover of James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.”
After Mark additionally composed the song “Butter” for Boney’s Send One Your Love CD,
Boney returns the favor as co-writer and producer of the Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired
“To the Mountaintop.”
South African singer Jonathan Butler brings a spirited wordless vocal to “Renewal,”
a song Stephens originally recorded with the late sax man George Howard.
The triumvirate of “Peaceful Warrior,”
“The Security Council” and “Dark Secrets” showcases Stephens stretching out over some grooves that bring out the unique improvisational side of his playing.
“Love Will Lead the Way” is a ballad featuring Kirk Whalum,
and is only available as a free ‘bonus track’ for download on his website. www.markstephensmusic.com.
The album comes to a sizzling close with the declaration “Stand Up” featuring Chaka Khan,
a superstar with whom Mark has worked for over a dozen years.
Mark Ellis Stephens was born in the seaside community of Carmel, California
and grew up in the neighboring Monterey Peninsula. It was in church where Mark started playing piano, his first of many instruments while in school.
Initially playing by ear then taking private lessons,
Mark got the best of both the instructional and exploratory approaches to music making.
He was lured into jazz by the sophisticated chord changes of progressive rockers Steely Dan.
“Part of what made me work so long on my record was Steely Dan’s
high ideal of studio perfection,” Stephens shares.
“I took my time, developing this concept and working with some of the finest musicians and engineers in the business.” Stephens cites his major influences as
Andrae Crouch, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, George Duke and Quincy Jones.
After moving to Los Angeles, Stephens swiftly infiltrated the A-list players circle
and has since anchored concerts around the globe with artists that include
Alanis Morissette, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Stanley Clarke, James Ingram,
Kirk Whalum, George Duke, Larry Carlton, Take 6 and Josh Groban.
Solos of note with other artists are:
“Brazilian Love Affair” with George Duke on the DVD “Casino Lights `99” and “Man from Mars” on Chaka Khan’s “BET Live.”