Called "a fine and funky pianist" by Living Blues, pianist and composer Craig Brenner is a two-time recipient of Indiana Arts Commission Individual Artist Program 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, 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 in Miami. Craig has also studied and performed with boogie woogie and stride master Bob Seeley and blues pianist Big Joe Duskin through one of the grants from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Live At The Old Mint is Craig's first CD since 2009. The CD features Craig playing blues and boogie woogie piano recorded live, including eight tracks with Alfred "Uganda" Roberts on congas recorded at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans in April of 2013. Other tracks feature Craig solo at the Mint in 2012 and at the Artsgarden in Indianapolis, and one track with Lori Brenner on rubboard.
A native of New Orleans, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts is an in-demand percussionist whose relationship with producer Allen Toussaint led to Roberts becoming house percussionist at Sea Saint Studios. Roberts 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 was introduced to pianist Henry Roland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, at the 2nd annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival by Jazz Fest producer/founder Quint Davis, and Roberts toured and recorded with Fess for eight years until Fess’ death in 1980. Roberts is featured on Professor Longhair's Rock N Roll Gumbo (1977) with Snooks Eaglin and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and on Fess' last studio album, Crawfish Fiesta (1980). The London Concert (recorded 1978) is a duo performance by Longhair and Roberts. Roberts toured with Willie Tee and the Wild Magnolias from 1980 until 1986, when he took a hiatus from the music industry, occasionally coming out of semi-retirement to tour and record on Dr. John's album Goin' Back to New Orleans (1992), Brenner’s Play It Again, Professor! (1995) and Man At The Piano (1997), and Dr. John’s Dis, Dat, or D’udda (2004).
Primary recording engineers for Live At The Old Mint were Danny Kadar at The Old U.S. Mint and Jeff Mountjoy at the Artsgarden, with mixing and mastering by Jacob Belser of Primary Sound Studios, and graphic design by Merridee LaMantia.
"Craig Brenner’s mastery of good-time solo piano styles has always played well live. It’s impossible to not groove on the rhythms and stylistic differences when he moves from boogie woogie to stride, barrelhouse blues and then, just when the time is right, something of a more elegant jazz vibe. Live At The Old Mint is Brenner’s first live album and that versatility is well-demonstrated here. Maybe most surprising is that a lively room can cover up all sorts of mistakes, but Brenner plays so well and so accurately here it’s a revelation. He may be the Boogie Woogie King of Bloomington, Indiana, but it’s doubtful anyone would challenge that royal status at the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, where the ghost of Professor Longhair still roams the streets, and where most of this album was recorded."
-- Mike Leonard, Bloom Magazine
"Piano master Craig Brenner is one of the finest ambassadors of the music of New Orleans and central Indiana is lucky to have him. Following up his strongest studio album to date (Live to Love from 2009) is a series of live recordings ranging from 2006-2013. The majority of the recordings were done at The Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans (thus the title) with recordings from Indianapolis and Bloomington. Despite the differences in time and locations, this is still a seamless series of songs. Helping Brenner out is Lori Brenner on rubboard on some tracks and Alfred "Uganda" Roberts on congas on others. It's fun to hear new versions of Brenner's "To Boogie or Not to Boogie," "The Crawdad Shuffle" and "Backstage Boogie" blend in with staples "Mess Around," "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" and "Night Train." A must-have for any music collection."
-- Matthew Socey, Host of The Blues House Party, WFYI, February 2014