Mark Isham - the trumpet playing composer

Mark Isham - A River Runs Through It soundtrack CD cover Born in New York to musical parents, it wasn't long before Mark Isham was playing instruments. He studied piano and violin, but it was the trumpet that was to have the deepest impact on his subsequent directions. He played trumpet in a variety of orchestras and jazz bands, sometimes appearing as a soloist or guest artist. Before long he was recording albums and giving solo concerts, while simultaneously launching a successful career as a television and film composer. His albums include "Miles Remembered: The Silent Way Project", a tribute to the great band leader and jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis. Isham is a fine jazz trumpeter in his own right as demonstrated in the soundtrack to "The Cooler" whose music is ideally suited to the casino setting. Individual tracks from Isham's albums also sometimes find their way as source music onto film soundtracks such as "My Pander Bear" which is used in "What Woman Want" scored by Alan Silvestri.

Mark Isham - Crash soundtrack CD cover It can be difficult to characterise Isham's film music as it can use widely differing pallets, though he often seems to be most at home with intimate and thoughtful music. His oscar-nominated score for "A River Runs Through It" seems to take its inspiration from the eternal truths of family life, the natural beauty of Montana, the peaceful river and the pleasures of fly-fishing. Isham has a strong following in both Jazz and Film circles and has actively encouraged and developed this fan-base through his web-site at Here you can subscribe to his regular free newsletter to keep fans in touch with his concerts and recordings. You can also listen to many Mark Isham tracks (some quite rare), in many custom playlists available at

One of Isham's most interesting scores is for the movie Crash which has another great screenplay by Paul Haggis (following on from Million Dollar Baby). The music to "Crash" is a further departure from previous soundtracks and highlights the composer's versatility, while The Black Dahlia has Isham very much in home territory with his jazz trumpet solos and Next treats us to an orchestral action score with more comtemplative moments. "Crash" has now been converted into a TV series. Paul Haggis and Mark Isham are both involved in the new series, with some of the music composed by Cindy O'Connor.

Mark Isham - Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans poster On 11th April 2007, Mark Isham received the Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement from ASCAP. This award is presented once a year to a prominent film composer who has demonstrated leadership qualities in the field. Werner Herzog's movie "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (starring Nicholas Cage, Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes) was released on 20th November (2009) in US theatres. As a preview for the film score, Mark Isham put together this an 8-minute suite of music from "Bad Lieutenant". The composer has continued his generosity to fans by regularly releasing further Suites from a number of his film scores, with some such as "Invincible" being previously unreleased. There are now a total of 7 such suites and we have included these below (note that these mp3 files are up to 20Mb in size):

Mark Isham - The Mechanic Assassin's Edition album cover "The Mechanic" is a remake of the 1972 film (scored by Jerry Fielding) which starred Charles Bronson as an Assassin. Isham's film score mixes old and new. The old is a melodic fragment on electric guitar for the assassin, played by Jason Statham in the remake. The new comes in the shape of Isham's atmopheric synths and driving Drum'n'Bass beat. Unusually the soundtrack can be downloaded in two versions: "The Assassin's Edition" is 51 minutes (from or and "The Complete Collector's Edition" (from or is 71 minutes. A 3rd option is "The Double Barrel Limited Edition" CD pack which will combine both and include special features.

In 2013 Isham scored the film "42" (subtitled "The True Story of An American Legend") which is a biopic about baseball legend Jackie Robinson and his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The film got strong support when it received favourable comments from the First Lady at a White House reception. The composer continues to score TV shows including "Blood & Oil", "American Crime" and the ongoing "Once Upon a Time". Recently Isham has released an EP album called "coverART" which is available for download.

Films by Mark Isham:

    Mark Isham - Blade soundtrack CD cover
  • Mrs. Soffel
  • The Hitcher (1986) - with Rutger Hauer
  • Made in Heaven
  • The Moderns
  • The Beast of War
  • Everybody Wins
  • Love at Large
  • Reversal of Fortune
  • Mortal Thoughts
  • Point Break - with Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze
  • Little Man Tate
  • Mark Isham - Nell soundtrack CD cover
  • Billy Bathgate
  • A Midnight Clear
  • Cool World - animation
  • A River Runs Through It - Isham received an oscar nomination for this soundtrack
  • The Public Eye
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Fire in the Sky
  • Made in America
  • Romeo Is Bleeding
  • The Getaway
  • Thumbelina
  • Mark Isham - The Cooler soundtrack CD cover
  • Quiz Show
  • Timecop
  • Nell - this score has a simple folksy feel
  • Losing Isaiah
  • The Net
  • Home for the Holidays
  • Last Dance
  • Fly Away Home - the music mostly consists of intimate groups of instruments including voice, accordian, piano, woodwind and strings in solo or group form. Isham's credits include the song "Ten Thousand Miles".
  • Night Falls on Manhattan
  • Mark Isham - Galapagos soundtrack CD cover
  • Afterglow
  • Kiss the Girls - there's a score album available which also includes the unused score by Carter Burwell
  • The Education of Little Tree
  • The Gingerbread Man
  • Blade - Marco Beltrami scoring the sequel
  • Free Money
  • At First Sight
  • Varsity Blues
  • Breakfast of Champions
  • October Sky
  • Body Shots
  • Galapagos: The Enchanted Voyage - documentary short, but with enough music to warrant a soundtrack release
  • Rules of Engagement
  • Where the Money Is - mostly good humoured music with a beat, as the characters plan a robbery
  • Mark Isham - In The Valley Of Elah soundtrack CD cover
  • Men of Honour/Honor
  • Save the Last Dance
  • Life as a House
  • Hard Ball
  • Don't Say a Word
  • The Imposter
  • The Majestic
  • Moonlight Mile
  • The Cooler - a soundtrack of superb jazz tracks, led mostly by trumpet and sax
  • Spartan
  • Miracle
  • Mark Isham - The Black Dahlia soundtrack CD cover
  • Highwaymen
  • Twisted
  • Crash (2004) - very much an atmospheric electronic score with occasional vocals
  • Invincible (2006) - American Football movie with an heroic score
  • Racing Stripes
  • Kicking & Screaming
  • In Her Shoes
  • Running Scared
  • Eight Below
  • The Black Dahlia - film noir style with jazzy solo trumpet played by the composer himself
  • Invincible
  • Bobby
  • Freedom Writers - the soundtrack album has a number of rap songs and some contemplative tracks by Isham led by guitar and violin
  • Gracie
  • Next - thriller soundtrack for this film based on a Philip K. Dick novel
  • In the Valley of Elah - his latest collaboration with Paul Haggis
  • Mark Isham - Next soundtrack CD cover
  • Reservation Road
  • Lions for Lambs
  • The Mist
  • The Women - includes some jazz-based tracks
  • The Secret Life of Bees
  • Pride and Glory
  • The Express
  • Not Forgotten
  • My One and Only
  • Crossing Over
  • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - for director Werner Herzog
  • Mark Isham - 42: The True Story of An American Legend - soundtrack CD cover
  • Fame (2009) - updated version of the 1980 musical
  • The Crazies
  • The Conspirator - courtroom drama following the assassination of President Lincoln, directed by Robert Redford and starring James McAvoy
  • The Mechanic (2011)
  • Warrior
  • Dolphin Tale
  • The Factory
  • The Lucky One
  • Stolen
  • 42 - baseball biopic about Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers
  • Mark Isham & Craig Harris - Judas and the Black Messiah - album cover
  • Homefront
  • The Longest Ride
  • Mechanic: Resurrection
  • Mr. Church
  • The Accountant
  • A Family Man
  • Megan Leavey
  • Duck Duck Goose - animation
  • A Dog's Journey
  • Bill & Ted Face The Music - 30 years since the earlier 2 movies scored by David Newman, Bill and Ted are back in 2020
  • Honest Thief
  • Judas and the Black Messiah - with co-composer Craig Harris, and some tracks with Quelle Chris & Chris Keys
  • Blacklight
  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent - starring Nicolas Cage as Nick Cage (yes really!)
  • Shooting Stars em>- a baseball movie

TV music by Mark Isham:

    Mark Isham and Cindy O'Connor - Crash TV series soundtrack CD cover
  • From the Earth to the Moon - parts 3 and 9 of this mini-series about the Apollo missions with Michael Kamen scoring parts 1, 4 and 12 and providing the main title theme
  • Chicago Hope - theme tune, Jeff Rona contributing some of the incidental music
  • EZ Streets - a first collaboration with Paul Haggis on the pilot and title theme to this short-lived show
  • The Black Donnellys - another Paul Haggis drama with original music created by Mark Isham
  • Crash - music for the Paul Haggis TV series based on the film
  • Once Upon A Time - theme and incidental music for this long-running series with a couple of TV movies
  • Mob City
  • Blood & Oil
  • American Crime
  • Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 - TV Movie
  • Black Mirror - the Season 4 episode "Arkangel" directed by Jodie Foster
  • Electric Dreams - a couple of episodes
  • Cloak & Dagger - 2 seasons of the Marvel TV series
  • Godfather of Harlem - crime drama series starring Forest Whitaker
  • The Cleaning Lady - Isham uses mostly ambient scoring for this series

Mark Isham - Recommendations:

Here are three very different albums showing the range of this versatile composer.

There is currently a video interview with Mark Isham featured on the m-audio site.

Mark Isham - Memorabilia:

Here are some CD covers signed by Mark Isham. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.

Mark Isham: The Conspirator - signed CD Mark Isham: The Mechanic (double-barrel edition) - signed CD Mark Isham: Nell - signed CD