CD ReviewsLive to Love by Craig Brenner & The Crawdads
"Wow....Your CD is really quite great... and swinging, too! Lori has a very fine voice, sounds s'wonderful! The band swings, and you are the master of the keys and styles. And the styling and art work on the jacket is first class. Whoever did that, give them a gold star on their forehead and send them to the front of the class!"
-- Bob Seeley, August 2009
"Though widely known as Bloomington's King of Boogie Woogie Piano, Brenner demonstrates a musical maturity on the new album that he first showcased on his 2002 release, Window on the Soul. Live to Love shows the pianist's full range of talents as a songwriter, arranger and band leader, as well as his broad tastes in styles and genres. Brenner's wife, Lori, literally is the voice, or vocalist, who stands out on many of the album's songs. Brenner wrote the song "Just One Glance" to be his wedding march. On Live to Love, the song is transformed from a piece written for strings to what a 50s dance band might call a stroll. "Homage to New Orleans" is a longer, six-minute piece, originally composed in the 1980s but re-crafted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. "Loading the Boats to America" is also a reworked longer piece inspired, Brenner said, by the election of Barack Obama. But then no Brenner album would be complete without his world-class boogie-woogie and blues talents, which are demonstrated on songs including "Hey Anna," "The Bloomington Breakdown" and "The Crawdad Shuffle."
-- Mike Leonard, The Herald-Times, October 10, 2009
Read a full review of Live to Love by Craig Brenner & The Crawdads, written by George Fish in Illinois Blues - www.illinoisblues.com/bluesartists/craigbrenner.htm
Man At The Piano by Craig Brenner
"Brenner's music, full of soul and virtuosity, shines on this album. Rife with spontaneous energy, Man At the Piano's 12 tunes are engaging and entertaining...Brenner's versatile playing distinguishes him throughout; his mastery of a variety of blues and jazz styles is perhaps the most impressive aspect of his playing."
-- Eric Robinson, BC Magazine, May 1997
"There are so many criteria for saying whether you like a certain musical act or piece of music. At this point in my life, I have heard so many artists try to dazzle me with one thing or another -- technical prowess, angst in their souls, an ironic worldview, sheer volume and obnoxiousness -- that it's a delight to find the likes of Craig Brenner. If you've heard him, you know what I mean -- a guy who's completely at peace with what he's chosen to do with his gifts. Brenner can clearly address, in conversation or in song, the great American piano traditions with authority. He's taken the New Orleans barrelhouse approach as his main ingredient, added dashes of boogie-woogie and New York-type stride piano, and seasoned the results with suggestions of Tin Pan Alley and raw Texas blues. When he serves this up on his platters, he does it in his characteristically unassuming manner.
"His new album, Man At the Piano, is the kind of follow-up to 1995's Play Again, Professor! you'd expect, but exudes just a tad more edge. Echo Park engineer Mark Hood seems to have realized we want Brenner, his Crawdads, and the impressive lineup of guest artists sound like they're in our living room, not his studio. Also, there's just a bit looser attitude to all the playing, both on introspective numbers and the dance tunes.
"Jumpin'" showcases the smartest guitar I've ever heard Gordon Bonham lay down on a record. He faithfully executes the figure Brenner also plays on vibes and tosses in some perfectly appropriate flourishes on subsequent choruses. The same goes for Mojo Hand's Lauren Robert's vocal on "You're A Hog For Me." Bessie Smith and Willie Mae Thornton would be proud. "When Sunny Gets Blue" is the loveliest of spare solo-piano pieces on the album... Kenny Aronoff shows he understands Professor Longhair-style drumming on "Hey Little Girl" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." But then, is there much about drumming that eludes this master?"
-- Barney Quick, Out & About, May 22, 1997
"All (the selections) are performed with a light, swinging touch that recalls the easygoing sophistication of a bygone era." -- Living Blues Magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997
"Easygoing set of blues, jazz, and Professor Longhair standards, with a few originals, too. Mix of solo and accompanied piano makes for good listening all around." -- Blues Access, Fall '97
"We're treated to a mix of solo pieces and songs with backing by a band including Gordon Bonham on guitar, Jeff Chapin on drums and Steve Johnson on bass...Some time ago Craig Brenner played at the Piano Stage of the Queen City Blues Festival in Cincinnati, along with two European players - Philippe Lejeune and Jean-Pierre Bertrand. I wonder if some of our promotors will have the common sense to have a 'piano stage' at his festival, so that we can see and hear people like Craig Brenner here on stage. That's called wishful thinking, or even better, utopia."
-- Marc Nolis, Hogtown Rhythm & Roots News Magazine, Belgium, Sept./Oct. 1997
"Ideal late night listening...a wonderful set of music that has that sense of blues and jazz cool one only finds in 50/60's records. A real gem." -- Al Handa, Delta Snake Blues News
Play It Again, Professor! by Craig Brenner
"Craig Brenner is a 'fine and funky' pianist..." -- Living Blues Magazine, July/Aug. 1996
"His touch is light, his control impeccable..." -- Bob Kissel, Blues Indy
"Brenner slides and glides and shuffles through the songs in a style that is simultaneously easygoing and lively."
-- Marc D. Allen, Indianapolis Star
"Craig Brenner knows how to boogie!" -- Margie Ketchem, Bloomington Voice
"An absolutely killer CD...sounds more like the Prof. than any I've ever heard."
-- "Stormin" Norman Moody, KVOL Radio, Hawai
"Your piano playing is great." -- Rich Gordon, WXRX FM, Rockford, IL
Backstage Boogie by Craig Brenner with Dan Hostetler
"Backstage Boogie displays Brenner's piano mastery through a 12-cut display of the classic stride piano style, a display made far more than just a museum exhibit through Brenner's combining of impeccable technique with soulful feeling that turns Backstage Boogie into an exercise in rockin' throughout, makes the music not only idiomatically correct, but toe-tappin' and hip-shakin' as well. Backstage Boogie is just one of Craig Brenner's masterful piano CDs available through his Web site, and is a clear demonstration that boogie piano lives on strong, vital, and thriving in Indiana."
-- George Fish, Indiana Blues Monthly
Window on the Soul by Craig Brenner
"Window On the Soul marks a stunning achievement for Brenner, long-recognized as one of the best piano and keyboard players on the local music scene. Brenner doesn't just stretch his boundaries with Window on the Soul. He breaks out as an artist with a diverse selection of original compositions that embrace bop, cool, Latin, small ensemble and trio jazz stylings. These are complemented with three pieces more close to home: the self-explanatory "Brenner's Boogie," the blues-based "South Fess Shuffle" and the only cover tune on the album, "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie." Window on the Soul is an album you can put on again and again. Unlike Brenner's previous paeans to solo and boogie woogie piano, there is a diversity of sounds, styles and arrangements that come together deliciously on Window on the Soul."
-- Mike Leonard, The Herald-Times, February 1, 2002