Gregg Brennan’s ideas on jazz music are as varied as the colours in his paintings. He prides himself on upholding jazz tradition and concept but believes in modernism above all else. ‘You have to be relevant’ says Gregg ‘you may have tradition, but if you do nothing with it, you aren’t really contributing to the art’. Anyone familiar with Gregg’s drumming can attest to this. A solo from Gregg may sound like a busy highway or the aural equivalent of an impressionist painting. He is as comfortable playing a jazz standard as he is playing completely improvised music or a rock tune. In his drumming, the listener can hear Gregg’s knowledge of the jazz tradition but also his concept of jazz modernism and his unique way of melding all of it into his own personal sound. ‘But really it’s all about melodicism for me’ says Gregg when talking about the unifying concept in his compositions and his drumming. He strongly believes in the simplicity and often minimalist ideals, no matter what kind of music he is playing. As a drummer, composer, painter and improviser, Gregg’s approach and concepts are indeed a single vision. He is an active educator and has experience teaching both private lessons on drumset and larger workshops and clinics including lecturing and appearing as a guest clinician at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Gregg was also an active member of the now defunct International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE).

Born in York, Canada, Gregg’s musical ambitions manifested themselves at a young age. By the time he was 12 years old he had a set of drums and not long after he was playing jazz with friends of his grandfathers. By the time he was 18, Gregg had gained experience playing with local musicians and moved to Peterborough to attend University. There he played in a number of blues and jazz groups. Although the audience seldom made it outside of Peterborough, he was more than prepared for his move to the USA to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Gregg quickly became known around Berklee as a modernist and gained respect as an Avant Garde musician as well. He played in numerous bands and formed lasting partnerships with bassist Fernando Mainer, clarinettist Zulfugar Baghirov, and pianist Marios Takousis as well as many others. Gregg’s personal style was called on repeatedly for studio work as well as collaborative projects with other students in the jazz idiom. His dynamic drumming was heard in everything from Bebop Septets, to Free Jazz Duos and trios and from abstract song forms in modern jazz to recording sessions for world fusion. In any situation, Gregg’s musicality shines over everything else, because he prefers to play what’s right for the song, “whatever ‘right’ may be in a given situation!" states Gregg. In music as in painting, Gregg’s style of apparent chaos is in fact, the result of a controlled knowledge. “I’m an improviser, I prefer surprises. I prefer to be amused and surprised rather than seeing or hearing something that I already know", says Gregg. It was this idea that eventually led Gregg to composition and the formation of his own group to play his works

Gregg formed the ‘Shrill Life Sextet’ in 2002 basing its name on the famous artistic subject of the ‘Still Life’ motif. His music has a distinct European flavour and balances the composed sections with pure freedom. With a multicultural group of musicians, Gregg recorded and released his debut album Fish in 2002. He sees the album as a compete work from beginning to end, like a classical ‘song cycle’ and has used one of his paintings for the cover. The cd has been well received both in the US and Canada.

While living in Toronto, Canada Gregg played with a number of groups including Viewfinder (viewfindermusic.com), The Swyves (myspace.com/theswyves), Sunroom, BLA Trio and lead his own groups Aiseiri and Zentropa. In 2005 Aiseiri released ‘Bird on Triangle’ and to date Zentropa has recorded ‘Safe House’ (2008) and ‘Old Lucky’ (2009). Both groups have played the Toronto club circuit many times and have had numerous well received shows at the inimitable Rex Hotel in Toronto. Gregg’s compositions were the focus of the Aiseiri songbook and he shared the composition duties with the other members of Zentropa. He taught at The Allegro School of Music, The Sterling Hall School and privately from his home studio.

As an avid reader and confessed film nerd, Gregg cites his love of film and literature as equal influences in his playing and composing, giving his style a truly unique, fresh sound. He has studied with Bob Moses, Ian Froman, Skip Hadden, Joe Hunt, John Ramsay and John Loughery and has attended clinics and workshops with, among others: Dave Leibman, Jerry Bergonzi, Joe Lovano, Rufus Reid, Billy Hart, Bill Stewart, Pat Metheny, Brantford Marsalis, Horatio Hernandez, Ed Thigpen and Bernard Purdie. Gregg lives in London, England where he is on faculty at the Blackheath Conservatoire, teaches private lessons and plays around the city with various musicians.


PRESS
Review of Jeff Perry and Gregg Brennan’s ‘Music for Brass and Percussion’ by Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide:

There's not much window-dressing on Music for Brass and Percussion (2005), presumably because trumpeter Jeff Perry and percussionist Gregg Brennan prefer to let the music speak for itself, without additional help from descriptive liner notes or suggestive packaging. This may be due also to the ambiguous, abstract qualities of the music, which can be taken as either free jazz or avant-garde improvisation, depending on one's expectations or point of view. But such categories are beside the point and possibly distracting from the album's substance, which is fluid and difficult to pigeonhole. Perry's intensely expressive trumpet and flügelhorn lines and Brennan's virtuosic drumming are apparently spontaneous and mostly unsynchronized, and what few connections there are emphasize the disparities: usually a shared rhythmic pattern serves as the only tie between the two, whose phrasing and timing are elastic and usually free of any sense of a downbeat. However, the long duets of Threshold, Conversation, and Finale do have continuity and consistency, and the musicians exhibit remarkable stamina and control to pull them off without extraneous riffs, breaks, or repetitions. The smoothness and the emotional depth of the performance make it compelling listening, and the tasteful blending of jazz and experimental techniques make this a crossover album in the best sense of the word. Standback's sound is natural and clear, so everything is audible at a modest volume, even though the performers recommend that the disc should be played loudly for optimal effect.






SELECTED ADDITIONAL PRESS EXCERPTS

“…literate and tasty..."
-Jazz Now

“…a bedrock of percussion"
-Whole Note

“Brennan is a solid, fluid musician, a good listener who is both creative and reactive"
-Jazz Review

“… a serious and talented young musician of the highest level. His conceptual level is extraordinary…"
-Joe Hunt, drums, author and educator

"Gregg…has qualities that make him a very unique player and his musical sensibilities and listening skills are at a very high level."
-Ed Saindon, vibes, composer, bandleader

"… a unique musician and a talented performer. He has a polished and distinctive style and sensitivity"
-Skip Hadden, drums, author and educator