Every once in a while an album comes along that really has me hooked from the first note to the last. Such is the case with Buy The Numbers, the latest from Chicago musician Harry James Brenner Jr. While the concept behind this one is simple – fourteen instrumentals built around upright piano and drums, all played by Brenner – the music is anything but basic and has a sense of nostalgia and raw intimacy that really hooks you in.
Fitting with the music’s hazy after hours vibe, Brenner recorded Buy The Numbers in a series of late night sessions at Chicago’s Shape Shoppe studio. Everything was played over a series of single takes and each track was completed in a single night with no post production manipulation of any kind. While this technique might sound rushed, in Brenner’s hands the music comes across as spacious and breezy, almost effortless.
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Buy The Numbers manages to strike an expansive range in terms of both tempo and mood. Tracks like “May 29, 2020” and “From Dogs To Ducks” keep things upbeat, while “Alice Runs The High Life” brings to mind the delicate melodies of Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou and “Laika (Rowland Stone)” sounds like a long lost J Dilla beat, all choppy drums and emotive piano loops. While the BPMs and style shift quite a bit, the album is united by its underlying emotional quality – each track makes you feel something.
The album’s liner notes are spot on by remarking that as a whole, the album is a “crate digger’s dreams;” this truly is one for the nostalgia heads with dusty fingers, a timeless sound that’s both sentimental and forward-thinking. It’s beautiful stuff and an album jazz, soul and hip-hop heads are sure to enjoy.