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Mark Doyle Eager to Bring Back His 'Guitar Noir' Sound

Mark Bialczak

Instead of drawing up a list of resolutions for 2014, Mark Doyle says, he came up with a bucket list.

"I said to myself, 'What would you do if this was your last year?' " the musician explains as we sit talking about life on a gray spring afternoon in his comfortable work room in his home on the east side of Syracuse.

"And 'Guitar Noir' was at the top of the list," Doyle says.

That's the name of the album Doyle recorded in 1999, a big, layered, string-filled, moody and introspective soundscape that he was so proud of that he recorded another album of a similar mood "In Dreams: Guitar Noir II" in 2011.  Oh. In 2001, that musical mood lingered with the release of "Out of the Past."

Let's get this out in the open right here.

I thought so much of "Guitar Noir" that I wrote a feature story for it for the Stars magazine section of the Syracuse Herald American, which included a cover shot of Doyle, in October 1999.

Doyle remembered that article way better than I did as we talked in his work room, bringing up how I wrote that Matt McCaffery of New York City publication The Tip Sheet had listened to his demo tape and called the style "Guitar Noir," giving Doyle not only the album title, but inspiration to write the song to go with it in just a half-hour.

Back to that bucket list.

Doyle had worked with his friend, vocalist Mary Fahl, arranging and co-producing "From the Dark Side of the Moon," inspired by the classic Pink Floyd album. But a week before it was supposed to be released,V2 Records folded.

"Mary was broken-hearted," Doyle says. "But she has the same tenacity as I have. So I assembled a band for her. I got Josh, Edgar and Bill."

He also took note -- again -- of the fickleness of the music industry. And he knew he had something good with Josh, Edgar and Bill.

That would be Josh Dekaney, percussionist; Edgar Pagan, bass player; and William DiCosimo, keyboardist, the longtime core of Syracuse roots band Grupo Pagan. With Doyle playing guitar and acting as band leader, since last year, they've toured opera houses around the northeast.

Playing the music of "Guitar Noir" with that kind of lineup took up the first two lines on Doyle's bucket list. All he had to do was add his Mark Doyle and the Maniacs band mate Terry Quill on guitar and a string section.

The first wish was to play the songs live in a show at the Auburn Public Theater.

The second wish was to play the songs live in a show at the Syracuse Jazz Fest.

Dreams do come true.

Doyle will perform his "Guitar Noir" show with the band and string section at 8 p.m. Friday, May 16, at the Auburn Public Theater. Tickets are $15 to see him perform at the 200-seat theater in the city in which he grew up.

And at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 11, Doyle and those musicians will perform on the big stage at the free-admission M&T Jazz Festival on the campus of Onondaga Community College.

The core band will consist of Doyle with Dekaney, Pagan, DiCosimo and Quill.

The string section will include Ally Brown, Leila Dean and Shelby Dems on violin; and Kate Wilkinson on cello. Claire Wilcox will play viola at the Auburn Public Theater; her mother, Michelle Wilcox, will play viola instead at the jazz festival.

"They're all really good, vetted," says Doyle, displaying the seriousness with which he's taking these two performances.

The two shows will be totally different. What they both will contain is the intense, lush and layered instrumental sound that led Doyle back to the time when he was in love with creating this "Guitar Noir" style of music.

Credit Mark Bialczak
Mark Doyle

The first set at the Auburn Public Theater will start out with "The Theme from Perry Mason," from "Guitar Noir," "to get people's attention. Then we'll play the entire 'In Dreams' album. In the second set, we'll play as a five-piece, without the string section, selections from 'Guitar Noir' and 'Out of the Past.' "

At Jazz Fest, he'll take second-set songs from the APT show and add string arrangements for the full ensemble, and believes pieces from 'In Dreams' will have an entirely different feel when performed "outdoors, with the warmth of the sun."

Doyle has spent the last four years concentrating on the heavier blues sound of Mark Doyle and the Maniacs. Now he feels that a break to concentrate on his jazzier, Noir self won't confuse his followers.

He's loving it.

"We've been in intense rehearsals," he says. "It is heart-warming to do this stuff. It is so cool. What is good for me is how technology has come so far in the last 15 years. Josh has his Roland pads, and he can play the loops I had in the original stuff, and it sounds like the record."

And after the Jazz Fest, the seven-time Syracuse Area Music Award winner and SAMMY hall of famer will reach even further back into his past.

On Aug. 2, he'll team with singer-sax man Joe Whiting for a set of Doyle-Whiting Band material at the Deauville Music Festival at Emerson Park in Auburn. Those two guys? They've only been playing in bands together since the band Free Will in 1967.

Have you ever seen Mark Doyle perform in any of the band he's been in over his career? What's your favorite Mark Doyle band? Do you have a favorite  Mark Doyle song? Who is your favorite Syracuse guitarist? Who is your favorite guitarist?

Mark Bialczak has lived in Central New York for 30 years. He's well known for writing about music and entertainment. In 2013, he started his own blog,, to comment about the many and various things that cross his mind daily.