b. 22 June 1958, London, England. Isaacs’ family emigrated to Australia in 1963. He was taught harmony and theory by his jazz musician father and at the age of 12 Mark had written a woodwind suite. During his schooling he was an after-hours student at the Sydney Conservatorium, studying piano and theory with the eminent Peter Sculthorpe. By the age of 18, Isaacs was developing a simultaneous career as a classical and jazz musician. In 1979 his first jazz solo album was released containing original compositions. In the early 80s he went to America to play and continue his studies, where he completed his Master Of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music. His second album, Preludes, was recorded in Australia in 1988.
Returning to America, Isaacs witnessed his work, So It Does, performed at Carnegie Hall by the Australian Ensemble. In New York in 1988, Isaacs, together with jazz veterans Dave Holland and Roy Haynes, recorded Encounters, an impromptu album of jazz originals. The album was a major breakthrough for Isaacs and heralded him as a major talent. He then formed a trio with Adam Armstrong (bass) and Andrew Gander (drums), which toured Europe. This unit captured Isaacs at his peak of creative flair and technical virtuosity and in 1993 they toured Russia playing 24 concerts in 17 cities. Isaacs also performed his own piano concerto with the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra. ‘Playing the same piano that Rachmaninov and Shostakovich played was quite an experience’, says Isaacs, who completed his Russian tour with five trio concerts in Moscow. In 1995 ABC Music released a four-album set of originals, Air, Earth, Fire and Water, collectively entitled The Elements. The work featured an introspective Isaacs at the piano and his response to the transcendent and spiritual potential of music. In 1996 he was arranging for the Australian Art Orchestra, working with his trio and contemplating writing an opera. In the same year he was awarded a two-year Music Fellowship by the Australian Council for the Arts. In 2003, Isaacs was commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to write a concerto for trumpeter James Morrison. An admirable jazz piano player and composer, Isaacs personifies a fertile and creative period of Australian improvised music. His uncle was the guitarist Ike Isaacs.