Chicago native Mark Allen Felton might best be described as a child prodigy after first picking up a saxophone at the age of 11 and realizing how easily he mastered the instrument — even without the luxury of taking private lessons.
He says after hearing the musical wizardry of Grover Washington, Jr., he embarked upon his artistic journey, determined to secure his own voice and to carve out a place within the entertainment industry.
Now, with his fifth CD, “Soul Real,” and its first single, “A Place for You,” moving up the charts following the compilation’s March 2019 release, Felton’s international tour will make a stop in the District on Nov. 12 at City Winery in Northeast.
“I’ve been working with a lot of other musicians for years and often played in local clubs back home in Chicago but after sensing that the time had come for me to make my mark as a solo artist, I changed the trajectory of my career,” said Felton who has been afforded opportunities he never dreamed possible since signing with ICM Records in 2018.
“This is my first time doing an international tour and I’m having the time of my life,” he said. “I’m now being invited to perform in some of the most respected clubs and venues in the U.S. and in spectacular cities and countries in the world where I once couldn’t even get in the door. Having someone in my corner like ICM, having them put me in those kinds of places and supporting me and my music, it’s been an amazing experience. Each day there’s something new to experience.”
Felton counts among those artists who has drawn upon a wide range of musical influences — jazz and gospel standing at the top of his list. The prolific composer has penned several hundred songs and shared the stage with many of today’s legendary R&B and smooth jazz performers including Al Jarreau, Gerald Albright, Janelle Monae and Patti LaBelle.
He’ll introduce his D.C. audience to many of the pieces featured on his new CD — a collection of diverse songs to which he collectively refers as “Hipstrumentals” — a term he’s coined to describe his music.
“I’ve always been attracted to funky rhythms, great melodic lines, colorful chords and smooth vocals,” he said. “When I sit down to write, I just let all of that flow out of me. Some say my music sounds like it’s coming from a pot of gumbo. It’s true that the pot has a mixture of musical ingredients, from gospel and jazz to hip-hop and R&B — mostly instrumental pieces although I sometimes bring in vocals as well.”
“But in all that I do, all that I write and whenever I perform, what people experience is something that comes from my heart. I made up my own term in efforts to define the genre in which I best fit. That’s the way the industry works and what people expect — they need to have an idea of what your music sounds like and the style that best describes your work. Truth be told, I don’t really fit anywhere — at least not easily.”
As an artist, he says he enjoys participating with his audience so they can feed off one another’s energy. He says he relishes the chance to see how they react to his music and will easily change the beat or sound with improvisational artistry, when he feels so compelled.
In fact, the energy he sensed when he first began to listen to and study one of his mentors, Grover Washington Jr., during his youth, continues to inspire him decades later.
“I immediately connected to his spirit, his soulfulness when I heard his music,” he said. “During my college days and afterwards, I got several opportunities to meet and hang out with him. I attended many of his concerts and felt his energy and the magic that he creates on stage. It’s never just been about playing a horn — it’s been about celebrating and then sharing what comes from a rarely-experienced spiritual encounter.”
For more, visit www.markallenfelton.com or email Vern Goff at email@example.com. Doors for Felton’s performance at City Winery open at 6 p.m.; the show starts at 7:30 p.m.