When Contemplation was first released on June 11, 1999, pianist Mark Christopher Brandt was at the peak of a successful career as a local Washington, D.C. pianist and was on the move towards national and international tour dates with his originals. Suddenly, without warning, he was gone from the music scene. There was no follow-up CD, no explanations, and no performances of any kind anywhere. It was as though he never existed, except that his music could still be heard on jazz radio stations around America and purchased in iconic record stores like Tower Records, long since replaced by online music stores like CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.com to name a few.
“With the new millennium," says Mark, “came a new outlook on life and a new view of what I hoped to gain during my time on the planet. I got my priorities ordered, and I realized that although I was totally an artist to the core, it was beginning to stretch my sanity and my family in a very uncomfortable way. I learned during my time off that an artist is not defined by the number of fans he has, the people he has played with, or the amount of CD sales he can boast. An artist is defined by the integrity of his offering...period."
Brandt believes that artistic integrity is part of one’s character, and character is developed in the privacy of one’s home with the people who love you the most. Since Mark believed that Contemplation would be his last “professional” recording, he chose to do what he loved most-- to simply turn on the recorder and play his compositions on the piano with no frills, no editing, and no overdubs. With that in mind, Mark went into the studio and recorded the entire CD of original pieces, one right after another, in one sitting with no alternate takes. He then chose to include the completely spontaneous Impromptu 2 on this CD, although it came from a session on another date when Mark had some studio time to kill. As is always the case with his improvisations, Mark asked engineer, Bill McElroy, to turn the DAT on for a few minutes and (like Impromptu 1 on Mark’s Suite for a Fish Out of Water CD), Impromptu 2 was the result. A third impromptu can be found on his newest solo piano recording entitled This Side of Forever (released January 1, 2012).
Contemplation was the result of much soul-searching on the part of the improvising pianist. As his career excelled, his personal goals did not match his professional achievements. As Mark reflected upon where he was and where he one day hoped to be, he began to realize that none of his goals had anything to do with fame.
“I never gave up practicing. I did not stop composing. I stopped the part of artistry which all too often turns a musician into a hamster on a wheel. That is what was happening to me. Without even realizing it, I was walking “eyes wide shut” into the trap of living for the gig and the CD sales. No matter what type of music you play, music can ultimately and sadly become all about being out there so “they” don’t forget you. Now, as of this writing in 2012, I feel as though I can produce very high quality music at my leisure for anyone interested, and I can pick and choose the number of gigs, and even the type of gigs, I will do in a given year. I am sharing my life as it occurs and that brings me a great deal of joy, and this joy is what I hope to bring to each person who hears my music whether they buy a song, an entire album, or they simply hear me playing live. I love being a musician. I love being alive. My music is all about that love. That is why I am putting it out there, and that’s what got me started playing music in the first place when I was a kid. Love!”