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Canadian Heritage

John Mars


JOHN MARS (drummer, percussion, keyboard-player) formed his first rock and roll band, John Mars and the Martians, while attending high school at North Park Colllegiate in Brantford, and began collecting jazz records – mostly ‘50s and ‘60s small groups not long after. His father had taken him to see the Thelonious Monk Quartet in Toronto for his 16th birthday, which led to his growing interest in jazz, while still being true to his love of soul and rock.

When the Martians disbanded, Mars moved to Toronto where in '73 he met jazz pianist Stuart Broomer at the Jazz & Blues Centre. They discovered a mutual interest in Ayler, Monk, and Ornette Coleman among others. They began performing in groups with some of the best of Toronto 's "new thing" jazz players, including Michael Snow and the late Graham Coughtry. By 1979, Broomer & Mars formed their own piano/drums duo which lasted right up to 1987. At their peak they toured theatres, universities and the art circuit relentlessly throughout Ontario, New York, Michigan and Quebec. Their LP "Annihilated Surprise", was especially successful on public and college radio.

After Broomer and Mars split, John hooked up with masterful folk and blues guitarist David Essig. Ontario tours followed for Essig & Mars and it was from that time that Mars began to weave Stuart Broomer’s earlier jazz influences into ethnic folk music and improvisation. John Mars was the featured drummer with the Stuart Broomer Quartet when they appeared in the “Sound of Toronto Jazz” Concert Series at the Ontario Science Centre on April 4, 1977.