Michael Brenner is a young adult with autism and other disabilities. Yet he is a profoundly gifted singer, pianist and drummer.
Possessing perfect pitch and a remarkable memory, Michael knows literally hundreds of songs, from opera to jazz in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish. As a pianist he is equally happy whether playing Bach or John Lennon and his drum-kit playing shows his extraordinary rhythmic feel and sense of expressive nuance.
Perhaps Mike’s most spectacular gift is his ability for spontaneous jazz vocal improvisation, known as scat. Here he is scatting over the jazz standard “When You’re Smiling.”
This feature on Al-Jazeera America features Mike’s singing, and Dr. Muir’s work with music and autism.
Another feature of Michael’s singing is his simple sincerity with a ballad, as in this magnificent version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Two Sleepy People” at another concert in Rhinebeck, NY.
In this next clip Mike composes a song on the fly. I gave him a random chord sequence to which he improvises a beautiful, wordless melody and then created some wonderful lyrics. You’ll hear me ask [1’04”] “What would you like this song to be about?” After a pause, he replies thoughtfully “It’s about a simple thing that we need.” “What is that?” “It’s about a HERO.” So welcome to Mike’s completely spontaneous Hero Song…