Lionheart Music East (LME) is an independent record label founded in Northern Virginia by Mark Christopher Brandt in 1994. The label, the booking agency, and the teaching studio, which all fall under the LME banner, were inspired by Mark’s concerns over the way the music “industry” treated artists of greater skill and discipline, as opposed to entertainers of lesser skill and integrity. Several exchanges with reputable labels found Mark learning about the business while simultaneously learning that business and art often do not mix well without one of them suffering. Typically, it is the art form and the artist which suffers at the hands of business men and women who do not possess the courage or the skill to stand as artists, and so they make their living at the expense of those who do. To this day, there are thousands of little "sharks" patrolling social media, hoping to entice hungry musicians to pay for fans (which is an oxymoron) and hits on their social media pages. There is an equal number of so-called, or self-proclaimed, “artists” trying for fame and fortune using quick tactics and technological short cuts. No one is hurt more by this nonsense than the listener seeking a quality encounter with deeper music and patrons who long for musicians that can actually play their instruments well for social functions, weddings, dinner clubs, and even assisted living facilities.
Further frustration was discovered by Mark among jazz musicians at the local level who entrenched themselves in cliques which fought to maintain mediocre standards of playing which perpetuated outdated modes of playing, all the while using fake books and Real Books for their repertoire and a “pick up” or "one-night-stand" mentality. The proliferation of hired guns who formed last minute and sloppy bands, with no real chemistry except a mutual and hypocritical complaint about the unfair treatment of jazz musicians, began a slow decline of quality jazz in the Northern Virginia and D.C. area and a rise in unethical booking agencies who overcharged clients for sub-standard musicians willing to “play the game” for money, rather than practice their craft for creative respect. Further damage was done with the emergence of local “geniuses,” as they were erroneously labeled by their students, who Mark recognized as nothing more than cheap imitations of national caliber players. Throw in a few drug addict and alcoholic musicians, and the less creative but “clean cut” versions of jazz musicians began to prevail.
Prior to all of this, one could go to a local club and hear wonderfully gifted musicians offering their own brand of fire. With the rise of the complaining musician and the unscrupulous agent, mediocrity filled the void and the ignorant masses paid the price. Now, if you wish to hear good jazz, you do not go to a local club. You go to a concert or a show, and you see and hear an older musician who has been playing since the 60’s or 70’s, whose name alone is what makes the ticket price trustworthy. Or you see a younger musician who has been bolstered and stabilized by an economically challenged record label that throws any person out there who will draw a crowd by their intellectual and even nonsensical jargon--their “aesthetic” persona--rather than their ability to create and improvise music on any level other than the surface. Today’s jazz and creative music is either esoteric trickery or a throwback imitation of sounds gone by. Again, the patron pays the price and is left hungry.
In an effort to effect positive change, without the usual whining that jazz musicians became known for in the mid 1980’s, Mark began his private instruction practice, his independent recording artist status, and a booking agency for the promotion of fellow artists and students, under the title of Lionheart Music East. Mark has since become a highly respected and creative force in the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area. LME offers only national caliber artists in both the recordings and in the performances it produces. Whether they are social functions or artistic events, you are going to hear the finest in music performance and you can bet, if it is billed as a jazz event, there will be real and genuine improvisation. This is why Lionheart Music East is still going strong after 23 years in an industry that radically changes every three months. Ethics in business. Integrity in the arts. Honesty in all things.
The Lionheart Music East team includes the East Coast Duo, one of the most active, reputable, and affordable jazz groups on the East Coast since 2008. The Hope Springs Eternal Ensemble, the eclectic jazz and folk group No Explanations, and the solo career of Mark Christopher Brandt are also part of the LME family.
In every major town or city in America you will find a small little deli or restaurant that has been a favorite there for generations. It boasts a steady word-of-mouth clientele, reliable help, and a regular trafficking of patrons, both new and old. It is usually family owned and remains long after other bigger establishments have come and gone. Lionheart Music East is just such a place on the national map. Quality music. Quality musicians. Reputable booking agents. Affordable rates. Professionalism and artistic integrity of the highest standard.