Saturday, January 16, 2021

Craig Brenner’s Latest Keyboard Romp


Craig Brenner


Bloomington, Indiana blues and boogie piano wizard Craig Brenner (“a fine and funky pianist”—Living Blues) displays his mastery once again on his newest CD, Passages, showing well how he is both most able and multi-faceted.  In eight tracks of instrumentals and vocals, Brenner not only displays that he is adept at blues and boogie, in the stride piano boogie of “Tut’s Boogie Woogie,” the rocking boogie of “Paradiddle Boogie Woogie,” and the ruminative slow blues of “Some Sexy Blues For Ya, Y’all;” but also in three tracks of lyrical modern jazz, the instrumental “Life Is Precious,” and the two vocals, “No One Should Die Alone,” and “Spring Is Near,” this second jazz vocal further enhanced by Kyle Quass’s trumpet; as well as the minimalist classical music-inspired “For My Brother,” featuring only the solo viola and violin of neighbor Dena El Saffar; and his adept organ playing on the reggae-inflected last track, the vocal “Looking For A Job,” which also features a three-man horn section.  Passages is a players-from-his-other-bands, talented neighbors, and family affair:  wife Lori Brenner shares vocals with Craig on “Looking For A Job” as well as doing the artwork for the CD, son Nate Brenner plays electric bass, synthesizer, and does special effects, while Nate’s wife Merrill Garbus does the vocal honors on the jazz numbers.  Joe Donnelly’s alternative use of the baritone sax, as opposed to the more traditional tenor sax, appropriately adds to the blues and boogie numbers, as does Gordon Bonham’s elegant and bluesy electric guitar.  Craig Brenner has composed all eight numbers on Passages, as well as all the lyrics on the four vocal numbers, where his simple poetry is evocative and poignant, and shows him quite at home in multiple genres. (An important part of my political radicalism is an appreciation of pop music as a working class-inspired and participatory art form.)  Appropriate thus for an able expression of a true art form, Craig Brenner received partial funding for composing, producing, and playing on Passages from the Indiana Arts Commission.  Passages can be bought and the tracks downloaded at, and the whole thing fits nicely the Beatles’ famous words on “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “A splendid time is guaranteed for all!”           

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