News

Grant Street Festival Now B'Town Jazz Festival 

The B'Town Jazz Festival, formerly known as the Grant Street Jazz Festival, takes place annually in downtown Bloomington.  The 2015 location was on the SE corner of the Monroe County Courthouse. The free festival, presented by B'Town Jazz, has showcased some of the musical talent in Bloomington, including outstanding high school, college, and professional musicians.  Craig has played in each of the first four annual festivals, including with Joe Donnelly (sax) on Aug. 22, 2015.

Other performers have included Jamey Aebersold, Wayne Wallace, Mayo Jazz, Paul Kirk and Dave Bruker (bass/guitar duo), Monika Herzig, Janiece Jaffe, Jazz Fables, Postmodern Jazz Quartet, Café Cubano, the Matt Shugert Jazz Quartet, Peter Kienle, Tom Clark, Mike Lucas, Rachel Caswell, Carolyn Dutton, Mitch Shiner, and IU Jazz Faculty including Pat Harbison, Tom Walsh, Luke Gillespie, Jeremy Allen, Steve Houghton, Michael Spiro and others.

To watch a video of part Craig's performance with Joe Donnelly in 2012, click on Media.

Craig & Lori in Concert - Evanston, IL 

Craig & Lori perform annually at the Fountain Square Art Festival, Evanston, IL.  The Fountain Square Art Festival is the largest and oldest fine arts fair on Chicago's majestic North Shore. Featuring the eclectic works of more than 225 juried artists, this sprawling art showcase epitomizes words like "cosmopolitan" and "sophistication." The festival takes place in downtown Evanston, steps from the eponymous Fountain Square. It also features a popular children's art tent with activities overseen by the acclaimed Evanston Art Center, food, and a soothing music lineup.  http://www.chicagoevents.com/event.cfm?eid=123

Craig plays in New Orleans at the Old U. S. Mint during Jazz Fest! 

Craig explored the jazzy side of blues and boogie woogie piano Saturday, May 2, 2015, at the Old U.S. Mint, 400 Esplanade, New Orleans, in a concert presented by the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.  Craig's 2012 and 2013 performances there were recorded by Danny Kadar and are available on the CD Live At The Old Mint: Blues & Boogie Woogie Pianofeaturing "Uganda" Roberts on congas and Lori Brenner on rubboard.  Uganda Roberts, a native of New Orleans, has performed and recorded with many of the greats in the history of New Orleans music, including Professor Longhair, Dr. John, the Meters, the Wild Magnolias, Willie Tee, John Mooney, and others. In 2005 he received the Sidney Bechet Award for Innovation presented by the New Orleans International Music Colloquium. Lori is lead vocalist on Live to Love by Craig Brenner & The Crawdads, and also plays accordion and percussion with the band and in a duo with Craig.

Read a review of Live At The Old Mint: Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano by Rex Bartholomew in the July 27, 2014 issues of Blues Blast.

Bloomington Boogies: The Bloomington Blues and Boogie Woogie Piano Festival is Aug. 9th! 

Bloomington Boogies: The Bloomington Blues and Boogie Woogie Piano Festival was Sunday, August 9, 2015, in and outside the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, 122 South Walnut St., Bloomington, IN!  Bloomington Boogies featured great blues and boogie woogie pianists - Marcia Ball, Bob Seeley, Carl Sonny Leyland, Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes, Liz Pennock and Dr. Blues, Craig Brenner and others - with professional dancers!  Josh Davis taught East Coast Swing and Blues Dance styles before the festival. The blues and boogie woogie pianists who performed inside the Ivy Tech Waldron were accompanied by a rhythm section.

After the festival the music continued at Bloomington Boogies After Hours at Malibu Grill, located at 106 North Walnut Street on the Square in downtown Bloomington, where the pianists performed after the conclusion of the activities at the Ivy Tech Waldron.

Tickets to the performances inside the Ivy Tech Waldron auditorium were available at the BCT Box Office.  The auditorium concert sold out. Performances outside the Ivy Tech Waldron and at Bloomington Boogies After Hours had no cover charge. 

On Monday, Aug. 10, some of the guest artists - Marcia Ball, Sonny Leyland, and Bob Seeley - played an additional concert at Fairview Elementary School for 360 students and 30 adults.

The Uptown Cafe offered Bloomington Boogies specials - dinner entrees on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 7 and 8, and brunch specials on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8 and 9.  

Dinner Entrees included Red Beans & Rice with Andouille Sausage and a House Salad for $12; Chicken, Andouille,Tasso Gumbo and a House Salad for $12; and Shrimp & Grits and a House Salad for $12.

Brunches included Eggs Benedict Tchoupitolas, Coffee, and OJ for $12; Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberries and Cherry wood smoked Nueske’s Bacon, Coffee, and OJ for $12; and Eggs and Grits with Andouillee Sausage, Coffee, and OJ for $12.

Major Event Sponsors included   
Ivy Tech Community College      Carmin Parker P.C.    Bloomington Arts Commission     Indiana Arts Commission 

Festival Underwriters included       
VisitBloomington.com        IU Credit Union      Trojan Horse Restaurant & Tavern     
Oliver Winery & Vineyards     Mother Bear's Pizza    Nick's English Hut   Tim and Cheri DeBruicker      Robert Kissel      
Maple Grove Farms, LP


Media Sponsors:  
WFHB     WFIU      Bloom Magazine

Additional supporters included    Malibu Grill        Thomas Gallagher      Function Brewing
Downtown Bloomington Inc.        Indiana Institute on Disability and Community        Owen County State Bank      Griffin Realty
       Royale Hair Parlor LLC          World Wide Automotive Service          Newhouse Construction          Bill C. Brown Associates       
Nature's Way       Curry Auto Center       Andrew Davis Clothiers​        Renaissance Rentals       MainSource Bank
City of Bloomington Council for Community Accessibility     
  Adrian and Linda Eversoll         The Uptown Cafe
Bob Arnove      Jawn and Karen Bauer Family      Michele Brentano       Val Haughton and Frank Motley
       
Chris Gaal and Dr. Beth Florini       Rob Stone and Karen Green Stone      Kevin Robling and Jenny Stephens      
Marcy & Michael Wenzler      Phil & Linda Stafford      Story Insights      Rodney Young      Stephen Percy    
Monroe County History Center     Fourwinds Resort & Marina    Ken Grooms & Zain Mackey     
Springhill Suites by Marriott Bloomington     Melody Music Shop, LLC  Mark Wiedenmayer


The festival was been awarded a 2015 Visit Bloomington Tourism Marketing Grant - read about the grant at VisitBloomington.com. 

This festival was supported in part by the Bloomington Arts Commission's Arts Project Grant Program - read about the grant at bloomington.in.gov/arts.

This activity was made possible, in part, with support from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

The festival received a Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association Zone Arts Grant. 

For more information contact Craig at 812-334-0415 or craig@craigbrenner.com or click on 2015 Bloomington Boogies Festival. 
 

Live At the Old Mint Reviewed in July 24, 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 

Read the excellent review of Live At The Old Mint by Rex Bartholomew, Los Angeles-based writer and musician whose blog is at http://rexbass.blogspot.com. The entire review is below and also at http://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/craig-brenner-live-at-the-old-mint-album-review/

Craig Brenner - Live at the Old Mint - Self Release - www.craigbrenner.com

14 tracks / 53:15

There is just not enough good boogie-woogie music being recorded anymore, and fortunately the drought has ended with Craig Brenner’s first new album since 2009, Live at the Old Mint.   He has assembled a collection of blues and boogie-woogie tracks from his live shows that will surely lift your mood!  Craig is one of the best-educated pianists around; after attending college in Florida he moved to the Hoosier State in the mid-1970s to study at the Indiana University School of Music and he never left.  Since then, Brenner has studied classical, jazz and boogie-woogie piano with the masters of each genre, and has received multiple grants from the Indiana Arts Commission.  He is serious about his craft, and it shows in his performance.

This certainly is a live album, but this is not just a recording of one show at the Old US Mint in New Orleans (and it really is an old mint, in case you were wondering).   This CD is actually a collection of 14 songs culled from 5 different performances spanning seven years.  Included are 10 songs from two shows at Old US Mint, three more from two shows from Artsgarden in Indianapolis, and a track from a radio show that he and his wife did in 2013.  This set avoids being a hodgepodge thanks to the wonderful job of mixing and mastering done by Jacob Belser of Primary Sound Studios in Bloomington, Indiana – for the most part there is a very consistent sound, feel and flow to the music.

Brenner produced this album himself, and it includes six compositions that he wrote as well as a nice collection of songs that could easily be the final exam for a musician that is seeking a doctorate in blues and boogie-woogie piano.  One of these is the first song in the set, “I Stepped in Quicksand” written by the legendary jazz and blues pianist, Charles Brown.  Craig takes this one on his own, and there is a fun jazz influence on this one that goes well with his thin, yet pleasant, tenor vocals.  The piano sounds clear on this one and there is only a hint of hiss and sibilance, which is to be expected on a live recording of this type.

From there he heads into one of his own compositions, “To Boogie or Not to Boogie,” one of the eight songs on this disc that he recorded with Alfred “Uganda” Roberts on congas.  I would never think of combining congas and hard-hitting piano music, but it works on this straight-up boogie-woogie tune, probably because of the talent behind those drums.  Roberts is a Crescent City native who turned his percussion work into a career that included performing and recording with heavyweight artists that  include Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Snooks Eaglin, Gatemouth Brown, Willie Tee and Dr. John.

The covers are all super-cool!  They include gems like “Train Blues”, a faithful rework of Lux Lewis’ “Honky Tonk Train Blues” which has a glorious saloon piano sound.  Or Brenner’s version of Pinetop Smith’s 1928 seminal hit “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie,” his joyous hammering of Professor Longhair’s “Hey Now Baby,” and the familiar sounds of Jimmy Forrest’s “Night Train.”  But the standout of these has to be “Mess Around,” a song  written by Atlantic Records president and founder Ahmet Ertegun which was one of Ray Charles’ first hits in 1953.  The audience really gets into this song and claps along as Craig hoots the vocals and Roberts keep the beat with his congas.  This must be something to see live, and of course everyone can commiserate that they don’t want their little girl to mess around.

One of the more fun tunes is Brenner’s original “Crawdad Shuffle” that he performed with his significant other, Lori, at the Indiana University Radio-Television Center in Bloomington in 2013.  This instrumental features Mrs. Brenner on a rubboard which is placed far forward in the mix, and Craig almost takes a supporting role to its hypnotic scrapings.  The rubboard and congas are not ordinarily leading instruments, and it is fascinating that Brenner can pair up with these percussion instruments and allow them to shine.

The tunes on this CD go by quickly, and before you know it the final track, “Carolina Shout,” will be coming through your speakers (or headphones).   Recorded at Artsgarden in 2011, this James P. Johnson song from 1921 has no vocals or accompaniment, just Craig showing incredible timing on what has to be one of the most difficult songs to play correctly.  This ragtime song has some jazz influence with a tremendous dynamic range and rhythms that are as tricky as they come.  Craig totally nails it, and it is the perfect way to close out the set.

Live at the Old Mint is a good effort from Craig Brenner and a fine showcase of his piano and songwriting skills.  If you are not a fan of boogie-woogie, do not let this one scare you off.  There is still plenty of blues, ragtime and even jazz to be found on this disc, and you will certainly find something that you like!
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Craig Awarded 3rd Grant from Indiana Arts Commission

Craig was awarded his third Individual Artist Program grant from the Indiana Arts Commission for fiscal year 2016 to assist with his project "Bloomington Boogies: The Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano Festival." The grant allows Craig to progress in his career as an artist by producing the festival which takes place on Aug. 9, 2015.  Read about Bloomington Boogies.  This activity was made possible, in part, with support from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.  Read about all the individual artists and projects receiving FY 2016 IAP grants. 

Craig received his second Individual Artist Program grant from the Indiana Arts Commission for fiscal year 2012 for his project, "High School Jazz Musicians Pay Tribute to New Orleans, the Birthplace of Jazz."  The grant enabled him to arrange "Homage to New Orleans" for performance by students in the Bloomington High School South Jazz Band, and make a recording of the students performing the piece in concert for viewing on YouTube using equipment and software purchased with the grant.  The music will also be available for other high school band programs.
 
BHSS Band Director Robert Dubinski directed the performance by the BHSS Jazz Band in concert on Tuesday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Carmichael Auditorium at Bloomington High School South, Bloomington, IN.  Scroll down to view photos of the band rehearsing and performing "Homage to New Orleans."  Watch a video of the performance on YouTube at http://youtu.be/wl7w2DE_z_k. You can also watch the video with introductory comments by Band Director Robert Dubinski at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAh00zRBvhc.

This activity was made possible, in part, with support from the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
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Bloomington High School South Jazz Band

©Craig Brenner 2015