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Snarky Puppy’s Mark Lettieri: Playing Jazz With A Lowercase “j”



In this exclusive Jazz Guitar Today video podcast, Bob Bakert talks to guitarist Mark Lettieri.

Photo credit above Rosanna Freedman

A very bright star is emerging in the guitar world and that star is Mark Lettieri… Mark’s contributions to music are with groundbreaking, genre-bending innovative groups that are finding large audiences… 

Mark Lettieri is probably best known for being a member of the jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy.  He also plays and performs with his own quartet, The Mark Lettieri Group.  Additional projects include the Fearless Flyers with Minnesota funk/rock/Jazz fusion guitarist Cory Wong  (Joe Dart, bass and Nate Smith, drums).  Mark’s style as he relayed it to me includes “jazz” with a lowercase “j”… There is more and more of that going around… respect the tradition and use the jazz “language” to help better express yourself.  Mark’s playing is brilliant and spot on… his tone, and feel exemplify “taste”… Mark is a new voice, (not that new) that resonates and continues to gain fans and followers from the first time you hear it…

We are very proud here at JGT to bring you, Mark Lettieri.

Mark Lettieri in Madrid, 2021 – Photo credit Diego Garcia Marquez

Check out the entire Jazz Guitar Today video interview with Mark

JGT: What are you currently working on to advance your playing… technique, theory, tunes, composition, etc.?

Mark: Primarily composition. By writing music, I tend to find certain cracks in my playing or technique that I need to then develop in order to achieve the sound I’m looking for, or hearing in my head. Usually, my brain hears something that my fingers can’t always do right away – whether that be a particular technique or maybe a harmonic idea – so I’ll take some time away from the composition to discover how to implement those ideas. 

JGT: Do you practice or just noodle…and what is your typical practice session?

Mark: I wish I could say I have a practice routine, but I really don’t. I did have more of a routine when I was younger, but nowadays I spend a lot of time on the “business” side of the music business – all the nuts and bolts that keep my career in motion. It’s necessary work but obviously makes it hard to get in real practice. However, one of the benefits of doing a lot of the remote session work that I do, is the ability to use those projects to practice, in a way. For example, I might get a song with a unique set of changes over which I’ll need to solo, so I’ll use that piece of music to practice ideas…as long as I turn in the tracks to the client before the deadline!

Photo credit: Rosanna Freedman

JGT: Money no object, what recording project, and with who is your dream project?

Mark: I’d love to do some sort of orchestral project at some point. Perhaps with the Metropole Orkest. But there are still quite a few musical heroes I’d like to just jam with too. Everyone from Stevie Wonder to Billy Gibbons!

The PRS Mark Lettieri Signature Model

Bev Fowler, Paul Reed Smith GuitarsDirector of Artist Relations: Many artists dream of having their own signature model, and every artist has their own reasons for this dream. We have always been very selective when it comes to offering signature artist models, and there’s a lot that we take into consideration around this process. A big piece of the puzzle is developing and designing an instrument that is significant to the artist’s needs but different enough to set it apart from our other models. PRS is not a company that will just slap an artist’s name on a Custom 24, change the color and call it the “xx Signature model.” We spend a great deal of time defining the needs of the artist, factoring in sound, feel, aesthetics, functionality, and appeal to the broader guitar community. We also take a hard look at influence… how influential is the artist to guitar players? Will the consumer gravitate to the guitar because of the artist?

We started working with Mark [Lettieri] several years before the Fiore model was developed. We sent him a McCarty 594 to evaluate shortly after we launched that model, and the relationship blossomed from there. The launch of the Silver Sky model gave PRS a strong foundation in the single coil market. We naturally had plans to expand in that territory with an SSH model, so we approached Mark about doing a signature model. Mark is an artist who we consider to be highly influential and respected in the guitar community. His association with Snarky Puppy also gave him credibility from an influential standpoint. We worked on the design of the SSH guitar for months, and there was a ton of back and forth on prototypes to ensure we addressed everything that Mark wanted in the guitar while also making it a desirable instrument for the consumer. This is always a lengthy process, and we often find ourselves jumping over hurdles to get to the finish line. In the end, it’s worth it when you can finally tell the world about what you’ve been working on, and it is accepted by the market.

Check out the entire Jazz Guitar Today video interview with Mark

Photo credit: Francesco Luongo

Check out the entire Jazz Guitar Today video interview with Mark

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