Urban Blue is:
Mark Mayo – Vocals and Guitar
Mark Polott – Vocals and Bass Guitar
Lars Haake – Alto Sax
David Donen – Drums and Percussion
Mark Mayo has been playing music since he was six, but picked up the guitar at age 13. The first song he learned was House of the Risin’ Sun. He is still known to play it at shows today. He appeared at the New York World’s Fair in 1965 alongside Aerosmith drummer Joe Kramer. The Ventures and Beach Boys were early influences, but when he played a show with Leslie West, Mayo felt the fire of a heavy blues sound and this became his signature style. Longtime studies with guitarist Howie Morgan solidified Mayo’s theoretic acumen and knowledge of the fretboard. His soulful, bluesy vocals became a distinctive trademark and his lyrical improvisations were the highlight of many late night sets. Since 1969 he has teamed up with bassist, Mark Polott. Along with longtime friend and phenom keyboardist, Lloyd Landesman, they played and wrote the material for the 1970 Haystacks Balboa Album on Polydor Records.
Mayo’s been blessed throughout his career with opportunities to share the stage with countless acts – Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart and Faces, Blue Oyster Cult …just to name a few. Over the years, he has also loved rockin’ with powerhouse drummer Joe Franco, a one time member of Haystacks, who played for years with the Good Rats, Twisted Sister and Dee Snider.
His current ensemble, Urban Blue, speaks to the evolution of Mark and Mark’s music. It’s a road well traveled, breaking out from basic blues with all the colors of some hard-worked orchestration. The inspiring skills of saxophonist, Lars Haake and drummer David Donen make every live show a journey into the creative realm.
Saxophone lessons, at an early age, led to Mark Polott’s first performing group while still in Junior High School. The Long Island Sounds were a popular Queens party band and appeared at the 1965 NY World’s Fair. While in his teens, he spent several summers in house bands in the Catskill Mountains, opening for groups like the Chambers Brothers and providing a bass for Little Eva. It was 1969. Lloyd Landesman, an exciting keyboardist, joined his group. Shortly after several rehearsals and no gigs, Lloyd returned to a new project bringing Polott along on bass. This became Haystacks Balboa, produced by the legendary Shadow Morton and signed to Polydor Records. It featured Mark Mayo on guitar, who would become Polott’s partner in crime for many years to come. They were managed by Shelly Finkel, manager of Mountain. Haystacks Balboa toured the country opening for acts as diverse as Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart and Faces, Blue Oyster Cult and Eric Burden and War. In 1974, another Polydor deal was signed with the band called Mercury, a half rock, half funk hybrid, that opened for Larry Graham and the Ohio Players and recorded an album that never made it into the stores but featured the underground dance gem “Aw Shucks, Ain’t Got the Bucks.”
Various projects followed, all with Mayo on guitar and the Marks as co-writers. The guys fronted Murder Inc., featuring two great lead guitarists and a gangster theme, complete with an audio-visual opening and machine gun finale. They also sat in for many months with their good friends, The Brats, one of NYC’s original Glam bands. Several Mayo-Polott compositions still are featured in their set. “First Rockstar on the Moon” appeared on the Max’s Kansas City album after making it’s debut on the Mercury project. Later years included bands like the Igloos and Raccoon Lodge, featuring a big horn section, whose seeds eventually led to Urban Blue.
A native of Paderborn Germany, Lars started at the piano at age 4 and the alto sax at 10. Lars studied with tenor sax great Tony Lakatos and played in the local jazz big band. In 1998, after graduating from the University of Munich, Lars Haake came to America where he graduated magna cum laude in performance and film scoring at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has since studied with Richie Beirach, Bill Evans and Kenny Garrett. For three years Lars was curator of the “World of Jazz” series at the Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan.
When he walked into an audition for Urban Blue and started to play the guys were hoping he would show interest in the project. His sound was immediately engaging and his fluidity and melodic approach was magical. He has been with the band since that day and is an integral part of the Urban Blue sound and the personality of the group. His live performances are electric and a perfect foil to the guitar antics of Mark Mayo. Their energetic duels kept many people dancing late into the night at many shows downstairs at BB Kings in Times Square. His work on their latest project is stellar and starlike.
In 2011 Lars released his solo album “In the Picture” accompanied by legendary bassist James Genus. His live quartet features many well known players on the jazz scene such as Benito Gonzales on piano and Mark Whitfield Jr. Several weeks a year Haake returns to Europe and plays regularly in Paris and Munich with his own group or accompanying vocalist Tine Bruhn, a longtime associate from his Berklee days.
When he was 17, Dave played the Fillmore East sitting at the kit behind Chuck Berry. Various tour dates followed with blues great Slim Harpo, at venues like Steve Paul’s Scene and NYC’s Electric Circus. A few years later he toured with Chubby Checker and then jumped into original bands. Dave played the drums on the two Carillo albums on Atlantic records. The band was formed from the nucleus of writer/folksinger Tim Hardin’s touring band (`If I were a Carpenter, Reason to Believe, Misty Roses,etc). Carillo opened for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, the J.Geils Band, Van Halen, Bad Co. and many more. Coincidently, Mark Polott went to high school with Frank Carillo. The Queens Rock connection lived on. In the 80’s, David became a studio musician and did many commercials you can still hear on radio and TV. Dave has also recorded with guitar great Mark Ribot, Pat Benatar, Billy Squire, and played on albums and tours with The Lenny Kaye Connection (Patty Smith Group guitarist). Dave first met the Marks in the early seventies and was called on occasionally to sit in at a gig or a rehearsal. After a long friendship, the time was finally right for Dave to contribute his skills to the Urban Blue project. A veteran of the NYC rock scene, David can be seen regularly around town behind a set of drums or hanging comfortably with fellow rockers.