Mars Williams / Mars Williams Instigation Music Box Orchestra

Jazz Road Creative Residencies Grant Recipient

Mars Williams Instigation Music Box Orchestra

Recipient Information


Chicago, Illinois

Year of Award


Grant or Fellowship

Jazz Road Creative Residencies Grant

Grant Amount


About the Project

Will be in residence at Music Box Village in New Orleans to develop and premiere DEVIL'S WHISTLE. This is an extension of earlier project for 13 interactive "musical houses" at Music Box Village, a community art project featuring unique, artist-made musical installations on a forested plot in the Upper 9th Ward in New Orleans. Williams will collaborate with media director, Kim Alpert, to videodocument. Elastic Arts and Experimental Music Studio in Chicago will host performances. The Chicago-based orchestra will travel back to New Orleans for performance.

Residency location 

New Orleans, LA; Chicago, IL

About the Artist

Mars Williams is an open-minded musician, composer, and educator who commutes easily between experimental music, free jazz, funk, hip-hop, and rock.

John Zorn credits Mars as ""one of the true saxophone players—someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn. In many ways he has succeeded in redefining what versatility means to the modern saxophone player.""

Mars attended DePaul University and the Creative Music Studio, where he studied under AACM founders Anthony Braxton and Roscoe Mitchell. He worked as Anthony Braxton’s music copyist for 3 years, gaining hands-on knowledge of composition and graphic notation.

Mars has received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Record (with Liquid Soul), been a featured artist at the Moers Festival, and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has toured and recorded with Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark, Michael Zerang, Chicago Reed Quartet, NRG Ensemble, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Ikue Mori, Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Kent Kessler, Fredric Lonberg-Holm, Joe McPhee, Jeb Bishop, Tim Daisy, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love, Ab Baars, Mike Reed, Harrison Bankhead, Dave Rempis, John Scoffield, Kurt Elling, Kidd Jordan, and virtually every leading figure of the Chicago and New York downtown scenes, as well as the improvising and experimental music communities of Europe and Scandinavia.

As bandleader, he performs and records with NRG Ensemble, Witches & Devils, Liquid Soul, Trio No Mas, Cinghiale, Moments Form Trio, XMARSX, Boneshaker, and Soul Sonic Sirkus, which features improvising musicians and aerial circus performers.

For over 10 years, Mars has brought the critically acclaimed MARS WILLIAMS PRESENTS: AN AYLER XMAS to cities in the U.S. & E.U., featuring local improvisers from each host city. For these memorable concerts, Mars merges a variety of Christmas songs with the indelible repertoire of free-jazz titan Albert Ayler.

Mars' rock CV is also varied. He is a member of The Psychedelic Furs, and has recorded and toured with Billy Idol, Massacre, Ministry, Power Station, The Waitresses, Pete Cosey, Billy Squier, DJ Logic, MC5, and Jerry Garcia.

As an educator in the field of woodwinds and jazz improv, he held the position of Woodwind Instructor at Bard College for two years and presented Master classes to a number of institutions including UMASS, University of Chicago, Roosevelt University, and Auburn University.