Mark Stoffel is best known so far as the mandolin master in Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, but that will change with the release of "Coffee & Cake", his debut album for Mountain Home Music Company and his first solo project in over a decade. Made with an array of guests that range from friends around his southern Illinois home to colleagues from around the world, the all-instrumental collection is a showcase both for his graceful, sophisticated playing and his equally distinctive compositional flair.
Originally from Munich, Germany, Mark Stoffel spent decades traveling between US and Germany before finally settling down in Southern Illinois in 2001 with his wife Mary and his children, Finn and Oliver. Sanctifying his decision to make the United States his permanent home, he became a citizen in 2016.
A self-described Bluegrass music “addict,” he was introduced to the music in 1979, when as a teenager, he wanted a ukulele for Christmas and was mistakenly given a mandolin instead. The flub was actually a blessing, as he parlayed a classic mandolin instructional book, with occasional exposure to Bluegrass through radio, concerts by touring American musicians and accumulated experience in Folk, Rock and Bluegrass bands into a lifelong artistic passion.
Connecting with American artists, helping to arrange tour dates and providing hospitality gave him exposure, to the music industry and his future employer, Chris Jones. As he spent more time in the United States, his tasteful approach to playing, growing expertise in sound engineering and supportive harmony vocal abilities earned him increased attention. First, in regional acts, then with Jones’ singer/songwriter wife, Sally Jones, and finally with Jones himself, whose Night Drivers Mark joined around the time of the band’s 2009 recording, "Cloud Of Dust".
Today his superb mandolin performances can be heard on numberous recordings, including his first solo release, "One-O-Five", and a string of Chris Jones and the Night Drivers projects, including "Run Away Tonight"(2015), "Made To Move" (2017) and recently, "The Choosing Road" (2019). According to Jones, “Mark is one of the most musical mandolin players I’ve ever played with. Mandolin players are really impressed with his playing everywhere we go.” Ironically, despite his passion for Bluegrass, Stoffel confesses that he is highly allergic to real Kentucky Bluegrass.
Stoffel remarked regarding his release, "The time was just right for this album. Long before we started recording in the summer of 2019 I had a pretty clear vision of both music and the overall concept, which is to create an instrumental album with melodies that stick and an overall feel that appeals to the heart and soul. With that in mind, the tunes kept coming and it felt almost like my mandolin was guiding me along during the whole process. And because I grew up in Germany, where the daily afternoon Coffee & Cake ritual has been delighting people for centuries, I didn’t have to search long for the title of the album!”
From the opening track, “Shadowbands,” which displays Stoffel’s signature blend of classical symmetry, elegant rhythms and new acoustic music vibes, and acknowledging the Father of Bluegrass mandolin in “The Old Mountaineer” to the final track , a impressive display of mandolin talent on the swing staple “In The Mood” that features no less than 17 players from around the globe, "Coffee & Cake" is a vehicle for demonstrating the breadth of Stoffel’s inspiration. Whether it’s the progressive gallop of “Driving Me Madnolin,” or the evocative syncopation that foreshadows the sad end to a “March Of The Lemmings” or the pairings of “Ying And Yang” and “Finn And Ollie,” Stoffel and his colleagues offer musical journeys that are always thoughtful and engaging. The result is a collection spanning Bluegrass, Newgrass, Jazz and more that makes a quietly confident statement of Mark Stoffel's artist’s world-class musicality.
“Music is a catalyst for health and happiness and it is my sincere hope that "Coffee & Cake" will have a little part in this, especially during these curious times," Mark Stoffel believes.