Al Brant
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Al Brant

Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada | SELF | AFM

Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada | SELF | AFM
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Al Brant WIDE OPEN AB 470 ***1/2
Canadian Al Brant has been making music most of his life and for the past twenty-odd years as a professional he has been part of the duo Brant and Skelly, followed by a jazz-fusion outfit and for the past seventeen years as a vocalist with pop-rock band Tacoy Ryde. Alongside this he has also been building a reputation as a singer-songwriter and this fourth album showcases his talent as an intuitive writer and fine interpretive vocalist. There is an obvious rock influence in the musical arrangements with some stunning electric lead guitar by Kevin Breit, but he adds a more rootsy sound to the sensitive 'Common Thread' with some timely interweaving dobro, whilst the yarn of 'Shaman's Dream' features some fine banjo plucking to create a fine country-blues vibe. 'Advocate Of Love' is a well-constructed mid-tempo rock tune with an impassioned vocal. An album full of great artistic integrity from start to finish. - Maverick Magazine - UK


Concert helps keep Ryga legacy alive

Edmonton singer-songwriter Al Brant is at Okanagan College Kalamalka Campus Wednesday, April 20 to perform in a fundraiser for the ninth annual George Ryga Award.
Photo submitted
By Kristin Froneman - Vernon Morning Star
Published: April 13, 2011 1:00 AM


Edmonton singer-songwriter Al Brant remembers the first time he stepped inside the George Ryga Centre around a decade ago.


He had arrived at the former home of the acclaimed novelist and playwright, located under the shadow of the Giant’s Head Mountain in Summerland, to take a weekend workshop intensive with legendary musicians Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes.


The home, which now serves as an artistic retreat, is where many over the years have secluded themselves among the surrounding fruit orchards with a pen and paper, their thoughts and a musical instrument to create and be creative –– just like Ryga did before he died in 1987.


Brant is about to give back to the legacy that Ryga left behind to not only musicians, but writers whose pen has been pointed towards social justice issues and those maligned by society.


Long noted as one of Edmonton’s prime vocalists, Brant is hitting the road with bassist Michael Lent and guitarist Barrie Nighswander in support of his new CD Wide Open, and to support the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in B.C. Literature.


“I am honoured to be able to play in honour of Ryga and the award in his name,” he said. “This will be a live concert with my acoustic trio. We will play songs off our new CD and my last recording in 2007, plus some covers.”


Besides Brant’s connection to the Ryga centre, bassist Lent also has one to the area.


He is the brother to Vernon writer/musician John Lent, one of the founders of the Ryga award, and also the regional dean of Okanagan College’s Kalamalka campus.


“I remember playing at a jam on (Edmonton’s) Whyte Avenue and the Lent Brothers were the back-up band. They are legendary in Edmonton,” said Brant.


A first-call bassist who has worked with the likes of kd lang, Jann Arden and the late Long John Baldry, Michael Lent is also the owner of a recording studio in the Alberta capital, and produced Wide Open.


“I’ve known him for years, but we were more acquaintances, but when I approached him to produce my new CD, he was all over it. He brought in all these great players to perform on it,” said Brant, who attributes his 2007 CD, a live off-the-floor acoustic recording, in getting the ball rolling.


“I was able to connect with Mike, and get some funding and then the players. We’ve had great feedback and response about it so far.”


This is coming from a man who almost quit music all together.


A single father to a 16 year old daughter, Brant says he almost gave up on the music business due to concerns about finances.


“I’d been in music forever at that point and I had it in my head that I had to get this whole big income in order to raise my daughter,” he said.


What changed his mind was his life-affirming work as an itinerant musician with the University of Alberta Hospital’s Artists-on-the-Wards program.


The unique program is designed to bring music, writing and visual arts to the besides of patients, many of whom are hospitalized long term due to serious illnesses.


“My work at the hospital has been a rich experience,” said Brant. “I think it has helped the patients in that we come in without the medical staff, and get to know the person. We come in to provide a diversion and distraction.”


Brant has also been the front man for reggae-rock band Tacoy Ryde, who have been performing around Edmonton for the past 43 years, and is bringing along the band’s co-founder, guitarist Nighswander, to perform with him at the Ryga award fundraiser in Vernon.


The event will be a bittersweet celebration, as it will also be the last time the award is administered by John Lent, who is retiring from Okanagan College after 32 years of service, both as a creative writing professor and more recently as regional dean.


Lent, along with George Ryga Centre manager Ken Smedley and B.C. Bookworld’s Alan Twigg, founded the awards in 2003, and is handing over the administrative reins to Dr. Matt Kavanagh, chair of the department of English at Okanagan College in conjunction with Smedley, artist Reg Kienast and The George Ryga Centre Society.


“The reason we are staging this fundraiser is that we are trying to set up an annual budget for this award that will help us to market it better,” said Lent, adding, “The award has received more entries already than any of the previous years (the deadline for entries is at the end of this month), so we’re delighted about that.”


The ninth annual Ryga award will once again be presented in Summerland at a gala ceremony in early October (details to be announced).


The fundraiser concert with Brant takes place Wednesday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m. i - Vernon Morning Star


"Al Brant and the Waterbirds took to recording like a...duck to water.
. After years of knocking about town in various guises this resourceful local roots-rocker has just released an admirable, self-titled debut album.
. Truly, this is a disc that features some wonderful original tracks — Mad Scientist, Ain't Gonna Do It and, above all, The River, being three standouts.
. These cuts resound with the same sublime, soulful craftsmanship and intensity of Paul Brady, the Irish legend who writes some of Bonnie Raitt and Tina Turner's best material.
. Brant, of course, has never heard of Brady.
. And besides, the Waterbirds — Barrie Nighswander (guitar), Cliff Minchau (bass), Kelly Pikula (drums) and Brant (12-string guitar) — spread their roots further afield than the veteran Centic soul runner to include traces of country, rockabilly and western swing.
. "Because the band didn't have a lot of rehearsal time, a lot of the album came together in the studio. It was just a space and time kind of thing, you know, getting what we got" says Brant. "The way it turned out surprised the hell out of me, man. The songs got written on an acoustic guitar, a lot of it had to do with how everyone interpreted it. "It's just the way the ship went.
. Edmonton-born-and-raised Brant started out as a cover act with Ian Skelly. Popular local arranger and composer George Blondheim took a brief interest in them and made several demos—one of which landed on a compilation album released by radio station K-97 in 1988.
. Further on down the road, Brant bumped in guitar whiz Eddie Patterson (who has since moved to Hamilton to teach).
. They formed a band and released an independent cassette, Let It Fly, in 1991. With Patterson, Brant began writing songs for the first time.
. "The stuff I was listening to as a teenager dealt with a lot of personal things about the soul. I was always into lyrics. If something made me think about myself or the world about me, I really dug it, you know. I suppose that's what stoked me to get into writing myself."
. The album Al Brant and the Waterbirds can be found at most independent record stores throughout the city as well as in HMV and Top 40."
- The Edmonton Sun, Rod Campbell


Because of his commitments to Tacoy Ryde, as well as family and employers, it has taken Al Brant a while to get around to recording his second solo disc.
..
The wait for fans is over as the tune-smith, who day by day is resident artist at the University Hospital, has released a new collection titled Songs for the Early Morning Sun. It is a 12-song set that is built around Brant's ability to write uncluttered and thoughtful pieces, inspired by his eyes-wide-open walk through life.
..
Unlike his previous solo outing, the decade-old Al Brant and The Waterbirds, or his work with veteran rockers Tacoy Ryde, this effort finds Brant's warm tone roaming through lyrics that are supported by a more acoustic setting.
..
An all-acoustic affair, Brant and producers John Armstrong and Barry Allen spun the sympathetic, spirited playing of Tacoy guitarist Barry Nighwander and the many shades of Cliff Minchau's bass through songs that focus on positive emotions related to change, images of nature and memories of an influential relative.
..
"I was at a point where I thought if I don't do this now I'm never going to get it done. Then I had a creative burst in the middle of 2006 and John and I got down to recording basic track," says Brant, who officially unveils the new tunes tonight at the Blue Chair Café.
..
The bare bones, acoustic approach is something I always wanted to do, and we were really open to players adding their stuff as they heard it. I think Barry is the heart and soul of a lot of this music.
..
"Cliff contributed in so many levels, from the stomp thing that is the core of The Fingernail of God to all the percussion stuff that pops up here and there," says the songwriter, who gives listeners a glimpse into the life of his late grandfather on Tired Child and of a hospital patient he interacted with on 80 Roses for Anny.
..
Amid the originals, Brant also slid in an interpretation of The Beatles' Dear Prudence.
..
While fiddler and mandolnist Cam Neufeld and vocalist Terry Morrison guested on sessions, tonight's two sets will be a trio affair that wll also include a couple of tunes from Brant's first solo album and " an a cappella Tacoy Ryde piece."
- The Edmonton Journal, Peter North


Al Brant Wide Open to new ideas, July 2010
By Roger Levesque, Special to the Edmonton Journal
.
Edmonton singer-songwriter reaches new level of communication with his upcoming album
EDMONTON - He's been making music in one context or another for more than 20 years now, but Al Brant has still had his fair share of doubts about career choices.

"I finally realized just how much I love music," the Edmonton-born Brant admits, "and in the end music is the only thing I really know."

The roots-oriented singer-songwriter recommitted himself to his muse a few years ago. He approached Mike Lent last year to serve as a producer, and the result is a life-affirming new project, Wide Open.

That album will have its official release in October. But tonight you can hear Brant and his crew preview most of the songs in concert as this summer's Qualico Patio Series gets underway at Festival Place in Sherwood Park.

Wide Open is Brant's fourth solo album overall. It's named after a specific tune, but that title really reflected his attitude going into the project.

"The whole process for me was about being open to other people's ideas. I was really open to Mike's suggestions about the songs or the music, and a lot of ideas came up in the studio too from the different players. For me, it felt kind of freeing. And some things turned out better than I ever expected."

One piece of luck came after Lent helped him hire Kevin Breit. The famous Toronto-based guitar genius was originally scheduled to play on a few tunes, but wound up lending his touch to the whole disc. Ditto for drummer Gary Craig (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) who also became part of the core band.

Lent's bass, guitars from Mark Sterling, Russell Broom and Brant, and various guest vocalists filled out the sessions here or in Toronto. It all makes for an accomplished set of tracks, some leaning a little toward the blues or country, or even taking a popular sheen, but making you listen.

Growing up, Brant recalls, there was always music around the house. His mother trained to be an opera singer in New York before she married and had kids. Then there was the older brother who turned him on to classic rock. By 16, Brant had picked up guitar and started to write his own songs.

After winning a talent contest at the defunct Sidetrack Cafe early on as part of a duo, Brant met mentors like George Blondheim, who produced his initial demos, and Eddie Patterson, who hired him to sing with his fusion band.

Working with Patterson, John Armstrong, Jamie Kidd and others, Brant put out his first solo album, Let It Fly, in 1991, followed by Al Brant & the Waterbirds in 1996. The guitarist-singer also put out several albums with the Stone Merchants (later SMAC), and joined Tacoy Ryde in recent years. He is also an ongoing cast member of the Christmas Carol Project and plays for other musicians.

Still, his most unusual job has involved being an Artist in the Wards at the University of Alberta Hospital for the past seven years.

"Sometimes it can get pretty heavy when you know someone is dying, but it's usually very rewarding because you're helping people connect to their own musical experience and sometimes you write songs together."

Whether he knows it or not, you have to wonder if that work has rubbed off in the meaningful depths and uplifting bent that some of his songs take, but the material on Wide Open draws inspiration from all over. There's an ill-fated trip to Europe ( Italian Skies), a number about belief and faith ( Common Thread), a tune about how real communication has fallen off in the computer age ( Digital Girl) and the title piece about moving beyond a culture of fear.

Wide Open sees Brant stepping up to a new level of musical communication.

Brant plays Sherwood Park's Festival Place tonight with Mike Lent, Sandro Dominelli, Mark Sterling and Barrie Nighswander. Country singer Brooke Telenberg plays an opening set starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 at the door.

Brant is just the first of 16 acts playing Festival Place's Qualico Patio Series over eight Wednesdays at the popular outdoor venue during July and August. In case of poor weather, the show can move indoors on short notice.
- The Edmonton Journal, Roger Levesque


The title of this disc reflects Al Brant’s attitude to life, music and stylistic influences. He nearly quit the music business a little over four years ago, after sixteen years of playing and touring both with bands and as a solo act. Since making the decision to continue he’s been hired by the University of Alberta Hospital’s Artists On The Wards program to play for patients, an experience he finds very rewarding. He received an honourable mention in the international John Lennon song-writing competition in 2003. He’s also been involved in The Christmas Carol Project with other Edmonton-based musicians including Maria Dunn, Bill Bourne, Dale Ladoucer, Tom Roschkov, Terry Morrison, Ken Brown and Kevin Cook. Bellstruck Productions Inc. in association with CHUM Television produced a televised version of the show, which aired on City TV, Access, A-Channel and Bravo! across Canada in December 2006. This new disc, produced by session bass player, Mike Lent, gives the listener a solid slice of Brant’s music: sensitive, heartfelt and varied, from his own singer-songwriter mode to more rocky and funky fare, from a trombone section on Chasin’ Nothin’, to jazzy flute on Digital Girl, including a cover of the Allman Brothers’ Come & Go Blues. It’s a talent smorgasbord that deserves to be widely heard. Hopefully, the disc will help break his career wide open, too. - Penguin Eggs Magazine, Barry Hammond


AL Brant
With Jeff Stuart and the Hearts, Lizzy Hoyt, and many more
as part of HOMEFEST.
TransAlta Arts Barns
Sunday, Nov. 7, 12 p.m. (Al Brant at 1:25 p.m.)
Tickets: $15 at Myrhe’s Music, Earth’s General Store and
Tix on the Square
By curtis wright
A musical performance piques when
a connection is made; that unique
relationship between an audience
member and the performer can transcend
the moment and evoke the
most unspeakable emotions. It’s trite
to write about it, but we’ve all felt
some form of it one time or another;
whether it’s part of an audience of
20,000 or part of an intimate 150 capacity
room, or maybe a solo-show.
One-on-one.
Al Brant, on the eve of his latest
offering of roots and Americana,
Wide Open, indicates that although
a distinct closeness was achieved at
his release party in a smaller Edmonton
café the night previous to this
discussion, it doesn’t quite reach the
intimacy levels of some of his other
gigs.
“I’ve been at the University of Alberta
Hospital working on the Friends
Artist on the Ward program for seven
years now — it’s designed to bring
art to the bedside of the patient,”
says Brant. “I go room to room in
the ICU and play for patients there.
Sometimes it gets pretty heavy. But
it’s a definite honour to get asked to
play for someone who is maybe on
their way out.”
For many, you would think that this
heaviness would create a lost, maybe
disjointed musician, yet, as Brant admits,
it’s created courage and inspiration
for the singer celebrating his
fourth solo release.
“It’s a totally different vibe.
The difference is that one is a strict
performance; the other is more of a
deeply personal connection. I suppose
that connection happens in a
concert as well, but when I play in the
ICU a patient may start talking to me
and I stop playing. I think playing in
the hospital has helped my live performances
because I really connect
in my one on one performances.”
This encouragement comes
through on the eclectic Wide Open —
the title track being homage to exactly
that, being wide open to musical
ideas and inspirations as they come
along. Brant recognizes how his
music affects the lives of others and
made him a very fortunate full-time
musician — backed by local legends
Mike Lent, Sandro Dominelli, Mark
Sterling and Barrie Nighswander.
“There are times when I get lost
in my head as a solo musician; it’s
a piss off. For me when I’m playing
live it’s about what is going on with
the band, or what have you. When
you get stuck in your head — outside
of the moment — it totally takes you
away from the precious moment of
playing music for an audience.”
For Brant, much the same as for
anyone he visits at the hospital, a
song offers that moment of escape
and serenity. There’s nothing you
can physically grasp with music,
Brant admits, but there is so much
there.
“Music allows me to escape as well
— nine out of 10 times,” says Brant.
“It has a really interesting way of
taking people away from what is happening.
Sometimes you’ll see people
who are really stressed out or in pain,
like at the hospital — you get the
feeling that for those few minutes,
they weren’t thinking about that.
That has value.” - See Magazine, Curtis Wright


Discography

* Wide Open 2010
* Songs for the Early Morning Sun 2007
* Here's the Picture *Tacoy Ryde 2003
* Have another blue juice, mister *The Stone Merchants 2003

Photos

Bio

With ‘Wide Open’ Al Brant finally got to do something for himself. This new recording has an amazing core band guitar wizard KEVIN BREIT ( Nora Jones,Harry Manx) drummer Gary Graig( Blackie & the Rodeo Kings) and producer and bass Mike Lent (Jann Arden , KD Lang) . The 20 year music veteran put a lot of things on hold being a single father. A few years ago he almost gave up music completely when this talented singer/songwriter finally caught a break.
Al became an itinerant musician as part of the ‘Artist on the Wards’ at University of Alberta Hospital. This life-affirming program gave Brant the means to continue in the business. It also gave him the opportunity to connect with with people on a daily basis. "My work at the hospital has changed me as a human, "he says. "It has made me more aware, intuitive, and compassionate. My hospital experience is rich, and sometimes the people I meet and the stories I hear provide material and inspiration for new songs."
Some of that material found its way into the studio. Recorded with the talented Mike Lent in the producer’s chair, ‘Wide Open’ is the cd Brant always wanted to make. The songs are honest and the production respects the material. Al Brant’s dynamic vocal performance is spiced with terrific session musicians including Lent, Kevin Breit and Gary Craig. ‘I’m proud of it’ says Brant ‘…it’s something I want to stand in front of and say yeah, that’s mine’.
Brant’s eclectic musical background was the perfect training ground for this project. As the front man for such diverse acts as local Edmonton legends ‘Tacoy Ride’, ‘The Stone Merchants/SMAC’ and ‘The Waterbirds’ Brant’s style defies easy categorization. ‘Wide Open’ leans to Americana or Blues, but the songs will find a broad audience.
In addition to his music Brant has been a major participant and contributor to ‘The Christmas Carol Project’. Starting a decade ago a Al has written songs for and performed annually in this musical version of the classic Dickens tale. A televised version of the show aired across Canada on City TV, Access, A-Channel and Bravo!