Mark Christopher Brandt
No Explanations (2016)
Dan Leonard: guitar
Mark Christopher Brandt: acoustic piano
About No Explanations (Released May 13, 2016)
When one considers that No Explanations first stepped out in 2014 and then disbanded in 2016, the musical output is impressive. The projects are not simply groove-based vehicles for blowing as is the case with so many jazz and fusion groups. Each CD contains a set list full of intricate melodies and uniquely blended harmonies bridged together by the individual abilities of the two nucleus players, pianist/composer Mark Christopher Brandt and guitarist Dan Leonard, and their unity of soul.
In the spring of 2016, Mark and Dan went into the studio with no music prepared and nothing written down. They agreed to do something they had discussed doing in the late 1990’s but were not able to get to it. They set up across from each other in the studio and simply started playing. One at time, ten times in a row, they did this until they had an album of completely spontaneous first (and only) take songs. With no song titles in mind, they simply named each piece for the exact length of time it took to create the song from start to finish.
There are very few examples like this in the musical continuum of recorded music. Would any two friends share their inmost souls with each other and then agree to let a recorder run with the idea of sharing their intimate friendship publicly? The answer - in the case of guitarist Dan Leonard, and pianist Mark Christopher Brandt - is yes. This CD is a work of beauty, art, and love. It is challenging on every level in its purity of intention as well as its fearless exploration of the intangible, with unassuming virtuosity dripping from both musicians.
The Prophet offers a stark contrast to rest of the album in that it introduces vocals and layers on a much grander scale. The piece was literally crafted and built from start to finish in one session by Mark with only the minimum of chords and melody sketched out to support his lyric. Just prior to the recording date for this album the lyric sheet, originally written around 1984, was discovered by Mark amidst some old papers and boxes that were slated to be thrown away. After Dan laid down a blistering fusion guitar solo, the mantra “It’s not too late” resounds joyfully and excitedly from the choir which is made up of the lead vocalist on the song, James Majewski, and Mark’s 3 daughters, Shani, (DuFrain), Ko and Rita. The singing group is rounded out by Mark and his friend, videographer Scott Nurmi, both of whom jumped into the mix with some old school high notes.
An alternate take of A Moment of Piece, originally recorded by the duo on Round Trip, was placed after The Prophet, along with a beautiful and simple, solo acoustic guitar version of Brandt’s composition Mountain Air which completes both the album and the artistic journey for No Explanations.
If the works of No Explanations are discovered in thirty or forty years they will likely be connected with any of the recordings that were thought to be cutting edge at this time in music history. Guitarist Dan Leonard stopped working with Mark in the fall of 2016 due to the arrival of his first child. Like Mark in 1997, Dan wanted more time for his family. That which first split them up in 1997, that which bonded them together as friends for sixteen years, that which split them up again in 2016, is that which will see them together again down the road. Love. Sacrificial love.
1. No Explanations
11. The Prophet
12. A Moment of Peace (Alternate take from Round Trip Sessions)
13. Mountain Air