Mark Christopher Brandt
Duo Pieces with Multi-reed Player Geoff Thaler
Free Downloads Here!
In 1976 I was a sophomore in high school. I was just beginning to discover jazz music that was not the Big Band music of my parents - which, by the way, I loved (along with the music of the old Warner Brothers cartoons). It was Geoff Thaler, a gentle, profoundly intelligent soul, who introduced me to the music of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, artists who changed my life forever, as did Geoff himself. By my senior year Geoff and I were inseparable. We were playing professional gigs several times a week and jamming in every spare moment. Music was always playing in the car or in our rooms when we got together and it seemed that there were no shortage of things to laugh about and no things to complain about. We knew that we would be doing this when we were old. We knew that we were not hobbyists. Music was our life. Unfortunately, Geoff and I both became addicted to drugs and alcohol at the same time for the same reasons. We found it easier to believe we could survive as artists if we hid from reality. Little did we know that we, as artists, were living in reality.
We graduated in 1979 and continued to gig together until the spring of 1982 when I landed a gig with a well-known and reputable guitarist who did not employ the use of a horn, although Geoff did play some club dates with us. On the recommendation of this guitarist I eventually went to Berklee College of Music in Boston to polish my jazz composition and improvisation skills. It was a wise move and I have always been glad I did.
The good news in moving from Washington, D.C. to Boston, MA, was that Geoff had decided to attend Berklee for a while as well. We were reunited and roomed together in an apartment for one year. Geoff left college first and went to D.C.; I ultimately left college and went to Florida. Before long I had made my way to Georgia, and as Christmas of 1986 approached, Geoff called me and asked me to come back to the D.C. area and gig with him again. I was ready and he actually drove down to Georgia and helped me move to Northern Virginia with my future wife, Ramonie. The three of us became very close.
As 1991 came to an end I was beginning to get noticed locally as a player of quality. As 1992 opened I entered my first year as a full-fledged Catholic and a person miraculously healed by Jesus Christ of all drug and alcohol dependency. In this new place of freedom I began to compose my own music and I started to envision life as an artist with hope for the future. My first child was born the summer before Geoff and I entered the studio to record music for my first cd, Veritas. Unfortunately for both of us, Geoff was never able to kick the alcoholism which once made us think we were so happy and free. After my Suite for a Fish Out of Water was released (1997), Geoff and I began to take separate paths. We played several wonderful gigs together with his music and mine - not the least of which was a once-in-a-lifetime show for a packed house at Blues Alley, and Geoff played with me and my trio as often as I could get him booked at all of the jazz clubs I worked. It was not his alcoholism that split us up. It was my desire to spend more time with my family coupled with my disillusionment of the jazz industry. The more I climbed the ladder of success the less I liked the view. Attending daily Mass and coming home to my children became more gratifying than the possibility of touring. By New Year’s Eve 2000, I was ready for a break.
Geoff and I produced three cds together and played more gigs by the time we were twenty than most musicians from the same era did in their entire careers. The tragedy for us both was that we recognized too late that our music was a gift from God and not something we fell into because no one else, including our fathers, would have us. I learned much in my time with Geoff. I have learned more in my time without him. He died far too soon for me (2003), and thereby dashed my hopes of working with him again. I believe in the mercy of God and the power of prayer, so I am confident that just as our music lives on until the end of time, so we shall live on together in eternity, where time no longer exists or matters. Every time I hear a beautiful soprano sax or a gutsy tenor sax, whether it’s in my music or someone else’s, I always hear Geoff. That beautiful, kind soul who helped me get through geometry class so long ago and taught me what greatness in music is supposed to act, feel and sound like.
God bless you, Geoff! I prayed for you constantly and I was there for you in secret as you now know, when all others judged you, pushed you, tricked you and nagged you. Those who attended your funeral were among the many who found you and me to be problematic, to say the least. Although ten years sober, I was not mature enough in my faith at that time to attend and be charitable. I look forward to our reunion in Heaven where we will share again in that Communion that we shared at my son’s funeral, and in the fellowship of Love that so many souls, sadly, never know. I praise God for you in my life! I thank Almighty God for the gift of you in my life. Amen.
Mark and Geoff taken from the bulletin board of the
Laundromat near their apartment in Boston, MA, (1983)
Free sheet music for piano and woodwinds from Veritas 1995
Shrine of the Spirit
The Theology of Risk
Free sheet music for piano and woodwinds from Suite for a Fish Out of Water 1997
Suite for a Fish Out of Water Part 1. Entry and Descent
For Those Among Us
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