An Interview With Bill Brennan

July 12, 2011

By Jonathan Hicks


A pianist and percussionist, Bill Brennan is a very well-known player in the Newfoundland and Labrador jazz scene and the local music scene in general. At the young age of eight Bill began playing music and because of his dedication, his knowledge and love of music is tremendous. He has recorded solo albums and has also played and recorded with artists such as: Mika Yoshida, Sisters Euclid (“All Good Babies Go to War”), Andrea Koziol (“Coming of Age”), Curtis Andrews (“The Offering of Curtis Andrews”), Snook (“Snook’s Christmas”) and many more. He has also performed on two motion picture scores:  “Ice Storm” (Director: Ang Lee) and “Antoine Fisher” (Director: Denzel Washington). Bill has composed numerous pieces for piano as well as pieces for percussion and jazz ensembles. He has performed in Norway, Germany, Austria, Japan, Belgium, France, Portugal and Canada. Bill’s performance history ranges from music for theater, contemporary, folk, orchestral and jazz.

Playing jazz became a part of Bill’s life 28 years ago while he was attending university. He was drawn to jazz at this time because jazz music gave him “the ability to express”. Bill’s biggest music/jazz influences include “Stevie Wonder, Don Wherry, Keith Jarrett [and] Egberto Gismonti” and if you were to ask who he enjoys listening to and who he draws inspiration from he would say “Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Shirley Horn, Toots Thielemans, John Coltrane, Herbie, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler and so many more.”

Bill has been performing in the Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival (WIJBF) for seven years and in that span of time has played with about 6 or 7 groups at the festival. Bill believes that the Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival is having a very positive effect on the St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador music scene and says that he enjoys seeing other musicians perform and “bring jazz alive in the city.” Bill’s favourite memories from past years at the festival include “Rinse the Algorithythm” (a group that fuses new and old jazz traditions with modern dance music) performing at last year’s festival and the closing night party at The Dusk in 2009.

Finally I asked Bill “What tips would you give to a jazz musician trying to get themselves and their music recognized?” His response could apply to any musician and was simple yet profound: “Realize that it is a tough road but totally worth it.”


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