November 4, 2004

Longtime Pat Metheny Group Member Dies After Heart Attack

Mark Ledford, whose wordless vocals on the Pat Metheny Group's classic "Last Train Home" song help define their sound, has died after a heart attack.

Mark_Ledford.jpgSmooth Jazz Vibes can now confirm that Mark Ledford, a frequent vocalist with the Pat Metheny Group and a regular contributor to smooth jazz albums, died on Nov. 1. His family has confirmed that he suffered a heart attack. He was 44.

Ledford, known for sporting a shaved head, was not scheduled to perform on the Pat Metheny Group’s upcoming album called The Way Up. Ledford was raised in Detroit and studied at Berklee School of Music. In addition to performing on numerous albums with Metheny, the prolific Ledford - who played the trumpet - appeared appeared on albums by Special EFX, Walter Beasley, Doc Powell, Brenda Russell, Alex Bugnon, Najee, the Rippingtons and Club 1600 with Rex Rideout. He also performed with Kevin Eubanks, Hugh Masekela, Bobby McFerrin, Mary J. Blige and many other artists in various musical genres.

Ledford’s most recent appearances on a smooth jazz album was on Brenda Russell’s Between The Sun And The Moon, which was released Oct. 5. He sang background vocals on the song “It’s A Jazz Day.” In addition, Ledford’s trumpet can heard on the current smooth jazz single by guitarist Doc Powell called “Listen Up.”

Ledford’s only solo album, Miles 2 Go from 1996, featured contributions from Metheny and Najee.

Ledford will be missed by Pat Metheny Group fans who remember his passionate and beautiful vocalese, both on record an in concert. His work on perhaps Metheny's best-loved album, Still Life (Talking), along with vocalists Armando Marcal and David Blamires, was nothing short of heavenly. Ledford vocals helped make the song "Last Train Home" one of the goup's most popular songs and a radio standard even today.

But perhaps Ledford's range was best expressed on the 10-minute song "Finding and Believing" on Metheny's classic Secret Story CD from 10 years ago. Up and down it went, like a manic, tribal ritual. Glorious.

Posted by Brian Soergel at November 4, 2004 3:44 AM