Port Mande

New York Amsterdam News previews Port Mande at National Sawdust

Duo Port Mande uses music to bring many worlds together

by Nadine Matthews 

Although both clarinetist Mark Dover and pianist Jeremy Jordan in the past lived in Los Angeles, it took moving to New York City for them to meet. The move for each was serendipitous, as it allowed them the opportunity to meet and collaborate. Explains Jordan, “New York is big but everything is easy to get to unlike say, Los Angeles, where the city is a geographic sprawl. Because of that, different little sects and pockets form. In New York, you can get on the train and experience whatever you want to.” The opportunities to travel from their Inwood Manhattan and Astoria Queens neighborhoods gave Dover and Jordan a chance to develop a collaboration borne of a similar vision of the world.

The duo’s name, Port Mande, is their take on the French word portmanteau which is the combining of multiple other words. Jordan elaborates, “We’re encouraging the breaking down of boundaries in music and the breaking down of boundaries as a whole.” He points to a lack of communication and collaboration in the music community that he would like to see disappear. “Jazz musicians don’t interact with gospel musicians who don’t interact with classical musicians, who don’t interact with orchestral classical musicians, who don’t interact with Broadway musicians. Music is not supposed to be about that. It’s supposed to be about collaboration.”

Jordan and Dover’s experiences as musicians had a much more interactive, diverse flavor. Recalls Dover of their early New York years, “There was kind of like a collective of musicians that were coming mostly out of the Juilliard School and a little bit out of Manhattan School of Music. They would put together these like cabarets almost, and it would be in some apartment in Brooklyn or Inwood, or a warehouse. There would be shows where it would be classical musicians coming together, jazz musicians, hip-hop artists, stand up comedians—kind of like a variety show.”

Their collaboration, which the public will be able to enjoy this April 6 in concert at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, is marked by each of the musicians’ extensive experience and broad musical tastes. The duo will be joined by a host of guest artists for a program that ranges from 21st century classical, to jazz, to hip-hop. Selections include original and traditional works, music by Schumann and Ragonese, and more.

They’ve both worked in jazz, hip-hop, classical, pop and gospel. Michigan native Dover grew up on the Motown sound. “I grew up,” he says, “listening to Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves. I think naturally that drifted into 90s R&B and hip-hop.” Jordan, who hails from Chicago and began playing piano as a toddler, was heavily exposed to gospel as a child. “Both of my parents were music ministers at different churches. I guess in a way they were like Bach, modern day choristers.”

As to what he wants audiences to take away from hearing them, Dover says, “We want to show people that this music that we all celebrate is actually more similar than it is different. And that our real joy and love for all types of music can be combined into something unique that respects the individual genres, but also celebrates them.” For Jordan, it’s also about shifting the perspective of the audience’s experience. “There’s now this invisible curtain between the audience and the musicians. We want the audience to feel they’re as much a part of it as we are. Before recording music, people could only hear music by making it themselves or going somewhere to hear it.”

April 6: Mark Dover and Jeremy Jordan at National Sawdust

The duo Port Mande – clarinetist Mark Dover and pianist Jeremy Jordan - performs at National Sawdust on Saturday, April 6 at 7 pm. The program features music composed by each of the members of the duo in a range of styles. Mark Dover said, “Our original music runs the gamut from jazz, electronic, hip hop, and neosoul, to definite but veiled touches of contemporary classical.”

Also featured are concert works, including Dover’s arrangement of Schumann’s Dichterliebe as well as a 2017 piece for clarinet and piano by Jonathan Ragonese, commissioned by Dover. Complete program details are below.

Port Mande will perform music with and by guest artists, including soprano Faylotte Crayton and rapper POES. “The evening will have a variety show vibe,” said Dover, “as we announce music from the stage and call up guests to join us.”

Tickets are $25 for general admission and are available at nationalsawdust.org. National Sawdust is located at 80 North 6th Street in Brooklyn.


April 6, 2019 at 7:00 pm
Chris Grymes Open G Series at National Sawdust:
Port Mande - Mark Dover and Jeremy Jordan

Selections from the following:
This Is Loss (Mark Dover) 
I Am, Here Now (Dover) 
Lulu’s Dream (Jeremy Jordan)
Soon After (Jordan) 
Lead So I Can Follow (Dover) 
Hip Hop set with rapper POES
Song Without Words #2 (Dover) 
Non Poem 4 (Jonathan Ragonese) 
Dichterliebe No. 1 (Schumann arr. Dover) feat Lotte Crayton 
Fish Me A Dream (Jordan) 
Vocalise (Dover) featuring Faylotte Crayton
Let Us Break Bread Together (Traditional) 
Trust Us (Jordan)
Sipping on Schewitz (Dover) 

National Sawdust
80 North 6th St in Brooklyn
Tickets are $25 for general admission, and are available at nationalsawdust.org

Port Mande (formerly Duo Process), is the collaborative partnership between clarinetist Mark Dover of Imani Winds and pianist/producer Jeremy Jordan. The name Port Mande is a play on the linguistic term “portmanteau” – a word blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others, like the word smog (itself a blend of “smoke” and “fog”). Much like a portmanteau, Dover and Jordan’s artistic partnership is a blend of all of their vast musical influences – both having worked prolifically in classical, jazz, hip hop, gospel, pop, and world music scenes. Port Mande’s mission is to bring all cultures of people together by embracing music of every genre.

Praised by Opera News for his “exemplary clarinet playing,” Mark Dover’s vast array of musical experiences have helped him establish himself as one of the most diverse clarinetists of his generation. In January of 2016, Dover joined Grammy-nominated wind quintet, Imani Winds

A member of the Young Steinway Artists roster and critically acclaimed, “a clear technical virtuoso”, “a rare talent”; “a true Wunderkind”, pianist and native Chicagoan Jeremy Jordan has performed solo and chamber concerts throughout Europe and America including Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Rudolfinum in Prague, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival.

Insider Interview: Mark Dover, clarinetist

Insider Interview: Mark Dover, clarinetist
February 12, 2019

On Saturday, April 6, 2019 at 7:00 pm, Chris Grymes’ Open G Series at National Sawdust (80 North 6th St., Brooklyn) presents Port Mande, the clarinet and piano duo consisting of Mark Dover and Jeremy Jordan. In this Insider Interview, we spoke with clarinetist Mark Dover about the upcoming program.  More info online at nationalsawdust.org.


Classical Music Communications: How was Port Mande formed?

Mark Dover: Jeremy Jordan and I have been close friends and collaborators since 2013.  Even though a lot of our projects and concerts involve more than just the two of us, we’ve always felt that our work as a duo is the real foundation of all of our music. Coming primarily from the classical world we wanted to think of a way to take the simple idea of a clarinet and piano duo and expand the olive branch as far as we could.  

CMC: Both you and Jeremy seem to have very deep backgrounds in classical music. How does that inform your performances of the non-classical pieces?

MD: It really works both ways.  For me personally I almost feel like my background in jazz and improvised music informs my classical music performances almost as much or even more.  There’s a sense of once you know learn something musically and really know it, you can’t unknow it, and you can’t really set it aside, it will always be a part of you.  In terms of my classical roots informing everything else, my sense of time is definitely apparent.  In chamber music we are taught the art of rubato, of moving between the notes and the barlines, and I think my original music has a deep sense of that.  And then definitely aspects of 19th and 20th century European harmony are very present in my music and arrangements. Then again that’s present in probably all music these days!

CMC: Looking at the program, it’s clear your musical interests spread far. How do you keep these pieces connected together in a program like this? Is there a common theme?

MD: I think the theme is always playing music that speaks to us.  There’s not necessarily anything deeper to it than that in this program. Although one thing we try to relay to all our audiences is that this music is actually more similar than it is different.  It’s all really connected through the lineage of our musical ancestors.

CMC: Tell me about your collaborators for this program, POES and Faylotte Crayton. Have you worked with them before? Do they share your diverse taste in music? What will they bring to the program?

MD: Well Faylotte Crayton is my wife, so there’s that! She’s an incredible soprano, went to Juilliard and then Bard for her masters where she studied at Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts Program. She has a sound that really just gets right to your gut, full of raw emotion. I say that totally objectively! And POES is an amazing rapper from Washington Heights  that Jeremy and I met a few years back.  He’s a real poet, and raps about justice and equality, and about  his identity as a Dominican family man trying to make it in a very competitive scene. He has a flow that is just so smooth, and even though he doesn’t play an instrument or read music you can just hear his musicianship in his phrasing.  Both of them definitely share our taste in music, but they primarily work in their own genres of opera/art song and hip hop. Which is beautiful for us because we get to insert them into our crazy world and the results are really exciting.

CMC: How do you find time to compose (in addition to a busy career with Imani Winds and as a clarinet soloist)?

MD: I’m always trying to be near a keyboard. I always compose from the piano.  Even on the road I’ll drive the Imanis crazy with my backstage noodling.  It’s cathartic to me to write music, so it really doesn’t feel like work.  Especially since I’m usually drowning in a sea of chamber music pieces that need to be learned in a very short amount of time. 

CMC: Do you have any favorites amongst your own compositions audiences will hear at the April 6 concert?

MD: I wrote a song entitled This is Loss that was written during a very difficult time in my life.  It was only performed once before, so I’m really looking forward to digging into that.

CMC: What do you hope audiences will get out of coming to this concert?

MD: I hope audiences will leave feeling drunk with new sounds!  And I hope they feel like if nothing else, they’ve had a musical experience that was very different from the concerts they’ve attended in the past.  That’s all we could ever hope for!