Called "a fine and funky pianist" by Living Blues, Craig Brenner has been voted "Best Musician" in Bloomington, Indiana numerous times by readers of the Bloomington Independent, while Craig & The Crawdads has been rated best band in the same poll and #2 in Indiana by NUVO in 2007. Crawdad guitarist Gordon Bonham is ranked #1 in the same NUVO ratings. A graduate of Florida Southern College, Craig attended the Indiana University School of Music from 1976 through 1980, where he studied piano with Enrica Cavallo, Joseph Rezits, and Alphonso Montecino, jazz improv with David Baker, and composition with John Eaton. Prior to 1976, Craig lived in North Miami Beach, FL, where he studied piano with Elizabeth Fishbein, jazz piano with Wally Cirillo, arranging with Tony Pandy, and performed in the stage band at Miami-Dade Community College North under the direction of John Giorgini.
In 1981, Craig and a few friends formed the jazz-funk band "Kruise Kontrol." This was followed in 1984 by the fusion trio "Sajonner" with Tj Jones and Saaku Saar; in 1985 by "Rhythm Method" with Kim Morgan, Jack Wilkins, Peter Roller, Kevin Newcomb, and Steve Johnson; also in 1985, rhythm and blues band "Craig Brenner & The Crawdads" first appeared. The band's line-up currently includes blues guitarist Gordon Bonham, occasionally Craig's sons, and Lori Brenner on percussion and vocals. An early Craig Brenner & The Crawdads performance on television is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evT8_9r_xfc
In 1986, Jim Bracken, Gordon Bonham, Brian Lappin and Craig formed the roots-rock "Ragin' Texans" featuring drummer Kenny Aronoff. The Texans proved to be one of the most popular bands in Indiana for seven years and still perform on special occasions. A recent Ragin' Texans live performance is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_45P4K8H3uc&feature=related
Since leaving I.U., Craig has played 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. He has also regularly played throughout the Midwest and at numerous festivals and on many radio and television stations; his solo piano set at the 1997 Queen City Blues Festival in Cincinnati was recorded by the Blues Foundation and broadcast worldwide on "Beale Street Caravan." For information or to obtain a copy, contact the Blues Foundation at 901-527-2583. Craig returns to Cincinnati each summer to play and join blues and boogie-woogie players from around the world appearing on the Arches Piano Stage at the Blues Fest.
Craig's first recording is "Backstage Boogie" (1990) with drummer Dan Hostetler; his second, "Play it Again, Professor!" (1995), includes New Orleans conga drummer, Professor Longhair collaborator, and 2005 recipient of the Sidney Bechet Award for Innovation presented by the New Orleans International Music Colloquium, Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, drummers Kenny Aronoff and Tim Brookshire, guitarists Gordon Bonham and Stuart Norton, vocalists Janet Summers and Laura Carlson, bassists Brian Lappin and John Huber, tenor sax-man Dennis Riggins, and trombonists Tim Riggins and Dave Pavolka. "Play It Again, Professor!" includes both solo piano and ensemble performances and four original compositions. Craig's third recording, "Man At the Piano" (1997), features a variety of originals and jazz standards performed solo and by Craig Brenner & The Crawdads.
"Window On the Soul" (2002), recorded at Echo Park Studios, Bloomington, IN, showcases Craig's writing and arranging. He is also featured on the Cooler Kings' CD "Looks Like Trouble" on the Slippery Noodle label, on Cathi Norton's "Various Stages of Undress" on Flat Rock Records, on the new R & B recording by Piney Woods Blues Party, the new country CD by Andy Ruff and the Dew Daddies and a recent CD by Red Eye Max.
Craig performs annually at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park in the French Quarter, playing either solo or with Craig & The Crawdads featuring Alfred "Uganda" Roberts.
For over six years Craig hosted a radio show in Bloomington, IN, entitled "Play It Again, Professor!" on WFHB 91.3 & 98.1 FM Community Radio. The show focused on post-ragtime American piano styles and artists, featuring a different artist or genre each week. The show aired from January of 1993 until July of 1999.
In addition to performing and recording, Craig composes, arranges, and teaches advanced piano students the fundamentals of jazz, blues, and boogie woogie piano. Contact Craig at craigbrenner.com to purchase sheet music for many of his compositions for piano and for booking information.