Most Imaginative Instrumentalist

Nate Brenner

In the past two years, the Bay Area has seen a rash of garage bands that feature jazz musicians. Some of them have long romanticized the idea of playing rock ‘n’ roll; others consider it a dalliance. Some, like bassist Nate Brenner, want to find creative ways to meld current pop forms with their antecedents. That’s a dicey proposition, but Brenner has pulled it off in his bands Beep! and tUnE-yArDs, and in his solo electronic project, Naytronix. The artist’s new EP is a far cry from the jazz trio he used to play with at Albatross Pub with pianist Michael Coleman and drummer Sam Ospovat, but it’s certainly a fascinating work of art. Accompanied by a few select guests — including tUnE-yArDs singer Merrill Garbus — Brenner sings over programmed drums, looped keyboards, and the occasional garbled horn section, often letting the tunes devolve into free-ranging sounds. He tries his hand at a ballad, a cling-clangy cover of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”, and a giddy dance track that could almost be a children’s song. Brenner could probably reproduce most of his songs on a laptop computer alone, but it would be hard for a lesser musician to imitate them. He may be operating in pop, but at the end of the day, he’s still a jazz composer.

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