Mark Christopher Brandt

Electric Jazz and Fusion

There is no possible way to impress upon anyone reading this the profound impact that electric jazz and fusion music had upon me as I was just hitting the high school years.  To hear powerful electric music with no lyrics and no pop culture singer trying to tell me how I felt in any given moment, well it was the ultimate freedom for an artist like me to say the least.  Fusion opened the door to virtuosity in performance and paved the way to deeper sounds that came from the great jazz icons like John Coltrane and Bill Evans.  Classical music was no longer the stale and snobby music I once thought it was.  Rather, it became the obvious precursor to everything I was being moved by and within a short time a mandatory school to go through if I was ever to become a jazz or fusion musician worth his salt.

I began to discover that everything everyone was listening to in the pop culture world was born from either classical music, fusion, jazz or all three.  All of the “good” music had jazz progressions driving it and even looking back into the realm of music just prior to my entrance onto the listening scene, I discovered that Paul McCartney’s father was a jazz pianist.  The Beatles were great writers because they were paying attention to all of the sounds around them as they were growing up.  So it was with me.  My parents came from the Big Band era.  That was a great start for my ears and my heart.  The cartoons of the 20s, 30s and 40s reigned supreme during the weekends in my home, and the music behind the action was as much a part of the charm as the cartoons themselves.  There was classical music, rock music, country music, and pop music flowing through my house and all of it contributed to my formation as an artist.

Mark (c. 1996)

For the record, there is no such thing as a virtuoso musician who is not willing to live a life of self-denial and discipline.  It is the same for a spiritual person and that, for me, is the charm of Catholicism.  Not what religion will do for you, but what you will bring to the world through your practice of the disciplines of Love.  At the end of the day, artists want to change the world.  The saints do.  The inordinate love we learn from our parents, siblings, and passing relationships pales in comparison to the Love that God is offering us.  In fact, the two really cannot be compared at all.  My success as an artist and my success as a Catholic are intertwined because they are outcroppings of Divine Love.  I urge you to seek to understand the love that God is offering before deciding that Christianity - and  Catholicism specifically - will not provide a greater quality of life both here and now and for eternity.

Geoff Thaler

So the next time someone tells you that you can’t follow your dreams if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, tell them that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ your dreams will actually come true.  You don’t have to follow your dreams when you follow Jesus because He, as God and Creator of all, is the Author of your dreams in the first place.  Where do you think those dreams come from?  When you put Him first, He grants your desires to you.  No carrot dangling.  No need for repression.  No need for empty relationships.  No need for substance abuse.  No need for fears.  All peace.  All Love.  All joy.  All Beauty.  All God.   Amen.

To be honest, I must admit that I was always searching for more than pop culture music could offer, and in that sense, all that the world-at-large could offer as well.  Ultimately, my search for depth would lead me to Catholicism in a very real and profound encounter with the God-Man, Jesus Christ, Who comes to me daily in the Eucharist, or what most people know as Holy Communion.  The discovery in 1990 of what is actually occurring in the Eucharist and in every Catholic Mass was the opening to my life as a composer and, for that matter, my life as a fully alive person.  The Lord always offers us a better deal for our lives than our own arrogance (or the devil) can provide.  It makes sense then, that when I woke up on December 26, 1991 with the certainty that I would never drink alcohol or do drugs again, I also began to hear music within me (in what most musicians call the “inner ear”), and it was music I had never heard before.  I knew that my gifts as a composer, long dormant and repressed by years of self abuse, had returned and I immediately set about documenting every sound and groove that came to me.  By 1997, I had completed three albums of originals and I was already filling up folders with song after song, ranging in style from chamber music to jazz, to fusion, to folk, and even praise music.  Every note I have written since that December is dedicated to God and many times I specifically offer my music to Him through the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dallas Smith

Stan McMullen

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