Called “a fine and funky pianist” by Living Blues, pianist and composer Craig Brenner is a recipient of multiple Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Program grants and many other arts grants. A resident of Bloomington, Indiana, Craig has been voted “Best Musician” in Bloomington numerous times in the Bloomington Independent, and Craig & The Crawdads has been chosen best band.
A graduate of Florida Southern College who grew up in North Miami Beach, FL, Craig attended the Indiana University School of Music from 1976 through 1980, studying with composer John Eaton, pianists Joseph Rezits and Enrica Cavallo Gulli, and jazz educator David Baker. Prior to moving to Indiana in 1976, Craig studied with jazz pianist Wally Cirillo and classical pianist Elizabeth Fishbein. Craig has also studied with and performed multiple times with boogie woogie and stride master Bob Seeley and with the late blues pianist Big Joe Duskin.
Craig performs solo and with his groups at blues, boogie woogie and jazz festivals and venues around the world. He has performed with Bo Didley and opened shows for B. B. King, C. J. Chenier, Queen Ida, Buckwheat Zydeco, Gary Burton, Richard Thompson, Wayne Toups, Honeyboy Edwards, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, the Radiators, Duke Robillard, Jimmy Rogers, and Terrance Simien, among others.
Backstage Boogie (1990), Craig’s first recording, is all instrumental, with Craig on piano and Dan Hostetler on drums. Play it Again, Professor! (1995), includes conguero and Professor Longhair collaborator “Uganda” Roberts, members of Craig & The Crawdads, and guests, including drummer Kenny Aronoff, guitarist Stuart Norton, bassists Brian Lappin and John Huber, tenor sax-man Dennis Riggins, and trombonists Tim Riggins and Dave Pavolka. The jazzy Man At the Piano (1997) features Craig & The Crawdads, with guest vocalist Lauren Robert. Window On the Soul (2002) includes ten original compositions and features Craig’s sons Eli and Nate Brenner as well as Gordon Bonham, Norton, Tim Brookshire, Pavolka, clarinetist James Campbell, drummers Jeff Chapin and Pete Wilhoit, sax player Joe Donnelly, percussionist Bob Dubinski, trumpeter Pat Harbison, French horn player Jerry Morris, vocalists Janiece Jaffe, Jane McLeod, Sonja Rasmussen, Sue Swaney and others. Live to Love (2009) by Craig & The Crawdads consists of all original music, with the first appearance on record of expressive vocalist Lori Brenner.
Live At The Old Mint: Blues and Boogie Woogie Piano (2014), includes solo tracks by Craig and duos with “Uganda” Roberts recorded at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, plus tracks by Craig at the Artsgarden in Indianapolis and with Lori Brenner on rubboard. New Orleans native “Uganda” Roberts is an in-demand percussionist whose relationship with Allen Toussaint led to Roberts becoming house percussionist at Sea Saint Studios, where he played on the Meters’ “Afrika” and “Hey Pocky Way,” on Toussaint’s Life, Love, and Faith (1972), and on The Wild Magnolias (1974). In 1972, Roberts began performing, touring and recording with Professor Longhair until Fess’ death in 1980. Roberts took a hiatus from music, coming out of semi-retirement to tour and record with Dr. John and Brenner, including Dr. John’s Goin’ Back to New Orleans (1992), Craig’s Play It Again, Professor! (1995) and Man At The Piano (1997), and Dr. John’s Dis, Dat, or D’udda (2004). Craig is also featured on the Cooler Kings’ Looks Like Trouble, on Cathi Norton’s Various Stages of Undress, on Piney Woods’ Big Blues Party, Sonny Carter’s Wings of Time, on CDs by Andy Ruff and the Dew Daddies and Red Eye Max, and on Music for Memory, produced by Mark Butterfield to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of Indiana.
In 2015, Craig began producing Bloomington Boogies: The Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano Festival with performances by Bob Seeley, Sonny Leyland, Marcia Ball, Sunpie Barnes, Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues and others in downtown Bloomington, IN. The 2nd annual Bloomington Boogies again featured Seeley and Sunpie, plus Henry Butler, Mark Braun – aka Mr. B, Uganda Roberts, Bill Sims, Jr., Cynthia Girtley, Ricky Nye, Mike Lucas, Liz Pennock & Dr. Blues, David Barry, and Craig. Work has begun on the 3rd annual Bloomington Boogies, scheduled for Aug. 13 – 14, 2017.
Whether playing solo jazz, blues, stride and boogie woogie, jazz and swing with Lori or his trio, roots rock and blues with the Ragin’ Texans, leading the Zydeco and New Orleans influenced Craig & The Crawdads, or collaborating with other blues, boogie woogie and jazz pianists around the world, Craig promises world-class entertainment that will make you want more!