Exploring “Deep: The Baritone Sessions Vol. 2” from Mark Lettieri

Deep: The Baritone Sessions Vol.  2 from Mark Lettieri is a brilliant, edgy album.  Mark is one of the rotating guitarists in the jazz-fusion-world group, Snarky Puppy and has put together this album with no less than 20 musician friends and collaborators.  The only constant from track to track is Mark making each song totally unique and fresh in style ranging from metalesque tunes like Supernova or Pulsar to absolute funk like “Star Catchers.” Mark also mixes up the instrumentation and there are anywhere from two to nine players on a track. Mark describes it as “as long as it’s funky, it can take on any form.” The contrasts are distinctive with contributions from Snarky Puppy bandmates Jason “JT” Thomas, Justin Stanton, Bobby Sparks and Shaun Martin, as well as legendary Steve Lukather (Toto), Adam Deitch (Lettuce), Robert “Sput” Searight (Ghost-Note) and on and on. All of the instruments were recorded remotely and then  mixed together in Dallas.

Mark recalls that he first became interested in using the baritone in a funk context when writing the tune Jefe which was a bonus track on the Snarky Puppy album Culcha Vulcha. He was able to produce “the snap of a guitar and the thump of the bass.” You can tell from the track titles as well as cover design that that the theme is “deep space” as contrasted with Vol. 1 which was “deep sea” and had fish names for track titles.

 Let’s go deep into the album and listen track-by-track.


Red Dwarf hits with some Justin Stanton synth and Fisher-Price Laugh n’ Learn from Mark before Daric slams with the bass and JT pounds the skins hard.  Mark comes in with a deep machine gun fire baritone and it takes off. This is such a burner and immediately sets that low end signature sound for the album.  There’s a clear connection between the Snarky peeps and Daric Bennett on bass fits right in laying down some super funky bass.  The ending is a great deceleration with Justin’s synth and Daric’s bass taking over with an ethereal feel.

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard electric guitars, programming, kid’s toy
Jason “JT” Thomas: drums
Daric Bennett: bass guitar
Justin Stanton: synthesizers

Magnetar started as an Instagram riff and Mark took fans advice to turn it into a song. has Mark on multiple guitars making it sound like a full band and of course Adam Deitch (Lettuce) on drums and Shaun Martin (keys and vocoder) bring all the funk to this one.  The mid section is like a freight train rolling transitioning to a section with more synth in the mix. Mark plays a picked hybrid guitar for the bass line. For the last section, Shaun brings his unparalleled vocoder and the groove steamrolls right to the end with a Prince-like feel.

Mark Lettieri: baritone, standard, and Big 6 electric guitars
Adam Deitch: drums and percussion
Shaun Martin: Rhodes, synthesizer, vocoder

Pulsar starts with Mark’s catchy melody and his Snarky pals Sput and Justin play some great rhythm background.  Most of the bass sound here is Justin playing key bass. according to Mark. Also, as an interesting aside, Sput plays three different drumsets on this tune. Justin’s synth in the middle has a dreamlike quality as a nice offset to Mark’s wailing guitar solo here.  This has a prog rock feel.

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard electric guitars, bass guitar, programming
Robert “Sput” Searight: drums
Justin Stanton: synthesizers

Tidal Tail is funky right up front with that choppy beat with JT on drums. You definitely can hear a blend of  Vulfpeck, Fearless Flyers and Snarky as Mark plays the Big 6 bass. Mark actually wrote this in a hotel roof while in the middle of the Fearless Flyers Tailwinds session. Bobby Sparks, also of Snarky Puppy, has a some cool injections throughout to extend the vibe. He’s all over this one on multi-arrayed keys setup sounding like some ominous space traveling.

Mark Lettieri: baritone, standard, and Big 6 electric guitars, synthesizers, programming
Jason “JT” Thomas: drums
Bobby Sparks II: Hammond B3, CP70, Rhodes, Mellotron, ARP Solina

Voyager One has Mark on electric , baritone and bass guitars with the great Nate Smith on drums.  Mark and Nate are both members of The Fearless Flyers along with members of the funk band, Vulfpeck.  Mark hits some heavy grooves with the bass and layers the baritone on top. Again Bobby Sparks blasts off to outer orbits with his arsenal of keys and effects especially whe whammy clavinet.  The middle of this one feels like it could be straight of the P-Funk catalog with Bobby channelling Bernie Worrell.  I feel a strong mothership connection here. Mark guides us to the close with some funky baritone riffs. During the first session of Mark’s listening party, he mentions that “it actually started as a demo for The Fearless Flyers but he kept it for himself.”

Mark Lettieri: baritone and Big 6 electric guitars, bass guitar, programming
Nate Smith: drums, percussion
Bobby Sparks II: Hammond B3, Minimoog, Prophet 5, OB-Xa, ARP Ensemble, Clavinet D6

Star Catchers is a definitive funk tune. Mark’s bringing the bottom all the way.  Philip Lassiter brings the Philthy Hornz –  Sam Greenfield, Doug DeHays and Kristian Persson – sounding full on like Tower of Power.  The icing on the cake is a blazing Stave Lukather (Toto) solo that he just rips. For straight up adrenaline, this is my top pick so far. The combination of Mark on baritone and Wes Stephenson (The Funky Knuckles) on bass is badass.  There’s a switch from 4/4 to 6/4 and Mark credits JT with “the greatest shuffle in the business.” The end changes up the horn sequence a bit and they power right up to the finish.

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard electric guitars
Jason “JT” Thomas: drums
Wes Stephenson: bass guitar
Justin Stanton: synthesizers
Steve Lukather: electric guitar solo
Philip Lassiter: trumpet, horn arrangement
Sam Greenfield: tenor sax
Doug DeHays: baritone sax
Kristian Persson: trombone

Blue Straggler opens with a spacy pedal steel guitar from Travis Toy (Rascal Flatts) and Mark lays in with some of the baritone depth mixed with standard electric and bass full on.  Jacob Collier simulates a synth with his vocals – amazing. Nate Smith again holds down the kit.  Mark has some extra greasy licks midway and trades with Toy right to the finish. The one feels for me like country meets Miles Davis, if that makes sense. Mark reflected that “the working title was “Drunktry” like country drunk, because that’s kinda how it made me feel.”

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard electric guitars, bass guitar
Nate Smith: drums
Travis Toy: pedal steel guitar
Jacob Collier: background vocals, vocal arrangement

Nebulae has a multilayered opening sequences alternating with some thumping goodness provided by TaRon Lockett (Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles) on drums. Braylon Lacy ( Erykah Badu) is on bass. Mixing it up, Frédéric Yonnet interjects some funky  harmonica, for me bringing to mind the great Lee Oskar of WAR, an all time favorite, and he just shreds it, a standout on this tune. Frédéric who played a diatonic harmonica here with bent notes was brought in by Mark who wanted a different kind of solo here. Fittingly, he closes it out with a solo jam.

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard electric guitars, synthesizers
TaRon Lockett: drums, percussion
Braylon Lacy: bass guitar
Frédéric Yonnet: harmonica

Supernova has a short lived subdued opening The mix of Mark’s multiple guitars and synths is pretty trippy.  Bobby Sparks, sometimes called the world’s funkiest human shows why here with some low end power.  Keith Anderson changes things up with a smooth tenor solo with some excellent pops and squeaks.  Mark brings that baritone heavy hitting strumming.  Mark takes a short shred session before the closeout. Mark describes this one as a “complete explosion.”  Mark said this is one of the first songs that came together for the album, a little metal/djent at the end “like a cross between Soundgarden and Parliament-Funkadelic with the riff as part of the hook.”

Mark Lettieri: baritone, standard, and Hammertone electric guitars, synthesizers, programming
Jason “JT” Thomas: drums
Bobby Sparks II: Hammond B3, Mellotron, Minimoog, OB-Xa
Keith Anderson: tenor sax solo

Sublight opens with some unexpected baritone acoustic guitar with JT sounding like a train chugging down the track on nothing but snare. The feel is some Texas country twang and it rocks.

Mark Lettieri: baritone and standard acoustic guitars, Big 6 electric guitar, programming
Jason “JT” Thomas: snare drum

⇩⇩⇩ Purchase Here ⇩⇩⇩


Authors note: Some of the commentary and quotes from Mark come directly from two listening party YouTube sessions that Mark held on April 22 and 30 covering each half of the album. For the details on the songs and the instrumentation you can check out the videos below:

All songs written and produced by Mark Lettieri for Markus Justinius Music (SESAC)

Mixed by Maxwell Stark, except for “Sublight,” mixed by Joey Lomas
Mastered by Marko Schneider at Imagion AG, Trierweiler, Germany

Cover design by Knut Schötteldreier

Jason “JT” Thomas, along with Mark Lettieri’s acoustic guitars, recorded by Joey Lomas at January Sound, Farmers Branch, TX
Bobby Sparks II’s Minimoog recorded by Mason McCall at Ace Recording Studio, Garland, TX
Nate Smith recorded by Dan Davis at The Brown Owl, Nashville, TN
Adam Deitch recorded by Josh Fairman for Laskin Productions, Denver, CO
TaRon Lockett recorded by Brian Collier at Time Keeper Studio, Los Angeles, CA
Steve Lukather recorded by Trev Lukather at Storm Studios, Woodland Hills, CA