Mark Christopher Brandt
Suite for a Fish Out of Water (1997)
Mark Christopher Brandt: acoustic piano, keyboards, percussion
Geoff Thaler: woodwinds
Dallas Smith: electric bass
Stan McMullen: drums, percussion
Dan Leonard: guitar
About Suite for a Fish Out of Water (Released February 2, 1997)
The release of Mark’s third album is solid testimony to the notion that artists are not so much charting their course as they are following it. With the acoustic explorations of Veritas and the electric probings of In Spirit behind him, Suite For a Fish Out of Water becomes the defining moment in the early period of Mark’s work. Composers in the modern age of technology and social media either create to cultivate a fan base or they create, as of old, to better themselves without concern for who is watching. Mark Christopher Brandt and his Suite for a Fish Out of Water land in the latter category.
Those who discovered this album upon its re-release have found a timeless simpatico with those who originally discovered it in 1997. The CD features a focused and well trained pianist, improvising his way through seamless, flowing melodies as a gentle and haunting transition occurs from acoustic to electric sounds with the opening of the suite’s Part 1: Entry and Descent.
As the suite moves into the powerful rock/funk Part 2: Underneath the World, listeners discover that they have been transported into an electric amalgamation of every style of music composed since the 1900’s. A joyful whirlwind journey like Dorothy’s in the Wizard of Oz occurs until the listener finds themselves unwinding and reflecting peacefully home in the Part 5: Hindsight and Reflection. Mark crosses back through the terrain of Veritas (1995) on For Those Among Us, an acoustic piano/soprano sax duo composed by his longtime friend and co-collaborator Geoff Thaler. The album ends peacefully and with some melancholy on the simply stated solo piano of Brandt’s composition Alone at Some Point.
Worth mentioning is the inclusion of virtuoso guitarist, Dan Leonard, who offers a powerful electric guitar solo on the fusion blaster titled Part 3: In the Company of Sharks, followed by a visceral soprano saxophone solo and some blistering trades featuring the entire ensemble. The climax is found in Part 4: The Bait, the Hook, the Ascent. The hip-hop groove employed is unique in this setting because the solid drumming of Stan McMullen replaces what was at the time rapidly becoming the domain of drum machines and sampled grooves. The Bait further highlights Brandt’s personal touch with the use of a bebop style melody, a style Brandt spent time studying in his formative years as a side man in straight-ahead jazz groups.
There is no mystery here for discerning listeners. Themes from Part 1 occur and reoccur throughout the entire suite as in any well thought out symphonic, or chamber music work. They culminate masterfully in the climax of Part 4 with an obvious restatement of all themes in Part 5.
Suite for a Fish Out of Water is clearly a landmark of the natural progression found in a composer who is consistently seeking to raise the bar for himself without regard to the status quo found in the world that he seeks to be “in but not of.”
2. Portrait of Ramonie
3. Impromptu 1:
Part 1. Pax River
Part 2. 4419
Part 3. Full Circle
Suite for a Fish Out of Water
4. Part 1: Entry and Descent
5. Part 2: Underneath the World
6. Part 3: In the Company of Sharks
7. Part 4: The Bait, the Hook, the Ascent
8. Part 5: Reprise: Hindsight and Reflection
9. For Those Among Us
10. Alone at Some Point