Al Brant

BIO/DESCRIPTION

Al Brant grew up in a household that held music in high regard. His mother was a classically
trained opera singer who studied in New York. Although her career took a back seat to
raising four kids, she passed on to her progeny a love of music. One of Al’s earliest
influences was his guitar-playing brother, who introduced him at a young age to Neil Young,
The Beatles, The Strawbs and Led Zepplin. Listening to these artists created in Al a great
desire to write and sing his own songs.
Al’s first foray into the Edmonton music scene was as one-half of the acoustic duo Brant
and Skelly (Ian Skelly). It was around this time that Al caught the ear of award-winning
producer George Blondheim after performing in the finals of a contest at the Sidetrack café.
The result was a three-song demo that caught the interest of Bruce Allen at Penta Records;
which fueled Al’s deep desire to keep recording and performing.
It was through this recording session that Al met guitar wizard Eddie Patterson
(Hometown Band, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, Hans Staymer). Patterson was impressed
with Al’s vocal abilities and invited him to perform with his jazz fusion project. This exposure
to live improvisation of vocals and lyrics truly expanded Al’s musical horizons.
Al released his first solo album, Let It Fly in 1991, with Patterson and friends, John
Armstrong (bass) and Kelly Pikula (drums). Al connected with the late Duane “Wink”
Smith of Tacoy Ryde performing with The Eddie Patterson project. Duane asked Al if he
would be interested in singing with the Tacoy Ryde band for a Jimi Hendricks tribute.
This performance led to Al joining Tacoy Ryde in 1991. This was a true honour for Al since
he was always a fan of the band, which was one of western Canada’s longest running bands,
recently celebrating 54 years on the Canadian music scene. Al continued to perform with
Tacoy Ryde for the next 30 years.
In 1996, Al released a Factor-supported recording produced by Jamie Kidd: Al Brant & The
Waterbirds. This recording earned glowing reviews and regular airplay on CKUA and CBC
radio.
The birth of Al’s daughter around this time brought an increased focus on family life,
although Al continued to write and record with The Stone Merchants/SMAC (which
released four recordings: Live in the Living Room (1999), Have Another Blue Juice Mister
(2022), YigiYigi (2003), and vox Populi (2004); and with Tacoy Ryde, releasing two
recordings: Here’s the Picture (2003) and Tribal Evolution (2018).
Al’s song writing talents continued to garner accolades, and in 2003 he received an
Honourable Mention in the international John Lennon Songwriting Contest for his song
Horizons of Blue.
Al has written songs for and performed annually in The Christmas Carol Project, a musical
version of the classic Dickens tale, along with other Edmonton-based musicians, including
Maria Dunn, Bill Bourne, Dale Ladoucer, Tom Roschkov, Terry Morrison, and Kevin
Cook. Bellstruck Productions Inc. in association with CHUM Television, has now produced a
televised version of the show, which aired on City TV, Access, A- Channel and Bravo! across
Canada in December 2006. Since its inception in 1996, The Christmas Carol Project has had
100 performances, eight tours, a CD and an award-winning television special/DVD. The
show ran for 19 years (1996 to 2015).

In 2003, Al was hired as an itinerant musician at the University of Alberta Hospital, as part
of their Artists-on-the-Wards program; a program designed to bring art to the bedsides
of patients. Brant says, “I go room to room in the hospital and ICU’s 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.” Al
left the hospital program in 2013 but after a 5-year hiatus, he was hired back as a casual
artist in 2018 to current.
In 2007, Al recorded Songs for the Early Morning Sun. An all-acoustic affair, the
recording spun the sympathetic, spirited playing of Tacoy Ryde guitarist Barry
Nighwander and the many shades of bass by Cliff Minchau, through songs that focus on
positive emotions related to change, images of nature and memories of an influential
relative.
In 2010, Brant recorded his 5th solo album Wide Open. It’s named after a specific tune,
but that title 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 Lent’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 Mike Lent helped Al with hiring a famous Toronto-based guitar
genius Kevin Breit (Nora Jones, Harry Manx, K.d Lang etc.) who was originally scheduled
to play a few tunes but wound up lending his touch to the entire album. Ditto for drummer
Gary Craig (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Bruce Cockburn, etc.) who also became part of the
core band.
Bass by Mike Lent, guitar by Mark Sterling, Russell Broom and Brant, including various
guest vocalists, filled out the sessions in Alberta or Toronto. It all made for an accomplished
set of tracks, some leaning towards Blues or Country, or even taking a popular sheen, but
which made you listen. The recording garnered many positive reviews and airplay across
Canada.
Jump forward to 2020. Al joined forces with his bandmate from Tacoy Ryde Dennis
Meneely to form the recording duo Meneely/Brant. Demo-ing material by computer
allowed the two to create a substantial body of work and it was then that they invited highly
respected producer/engineer Miles Wilkinson into the project.
Wilkinson’s resume is a great read, just like the album projects he has worked on for the
past 40 years are a great listen. From his heady days in L.A. working on albums for the likes
of Rodney Crowell and Willie Nelson, to critically acclaimed projects in a circle of artists in
Nashville that included Guy Clark and Tim O’Brian. Wilkinson’s input was invaluable, and his
low-key approach and exceptional technical skills were just what Meneely/Brant was looking
for.
The result was a 5-song EP entitled Coming Days; “an inspired batch of tunes built on
muscular grooves, strong melodic and harmonic structures, intelligent and thoughtful lyrics,
and tasty and top-drawer vocal and instrumental performances.” – Peter North.

The supporting cast making a strong impression to Coming Days won’t be lost on listeners
either; from young bass player Dustin Roy, drummer Bill Hobson, to Mark Puffer and
soulful vocal parts by Samantha King, there was an undeniably charged chemistry
between the participants. Guitar greats, Ralph Pretz, Percy Marshall and MonkeyJunk’s
Tony D were all in on the project. Everyone involved left the sessions feeling the songs
were taken to a totally different level.
Al Brant has shared the stage with Kenny Shields (Streetheart), Bill Henderson, Roy
Forbes and many more. Al has performed at many Music Festivals and Venues across
Canada. He has been a song writing instructor for YouthWrite. For Al, the biggest highlights
have been the amazing musicians he has been able to perform with over the years.
Al continues to write songs and hopes to be able to get back into the studio to record
another solo project.


 

industry role:  Artist/Band
genre:  Singer/Songwriter

CONNECT

            

PHONE:  
EMAIL:  albrant@telus.net