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New album from Charlie Dennard

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    Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 7:44pm

DEEP BLUE, the newest release by CHARLIE DENNARD, is a trio album comprising seven original compositions by the outstanding keyboardist, composer, and arranger. The CD is Dennard's fourth project as a leader and a departure from Dennard's previous recordings, which usually feature just one or two of his own compositions. It follows Sozinho (2018), 5 O'Clock Charlie (2016), and From Brazil to New Orleans (2014). As noted in Jazz DaGama, "Charlie Dennard weaves something unique and imaginative out of the songs, extending harmonies without falling into the trap of freighting them with more than one can bear. Clearly Dennard's compositions in tandem with his extraordinary ear and arranging skills create winning music every step of the way."
The compositions on DEEP BLUE are a mix of New Orleans-style jazz and tunes with a darker hue, not unlike recordings on the ECM label, which have been major influences on Dennard's composing and playing. His style is subtle with a relaxed approach, which he credits to his teacher, the legendary Ellis Marsalis, with whom he studied for a Master's Degree in Music at the University of New Orleans.
For the last 20 years, Dennard has performed and recorded internationally with a variety of jazz, blues and world music ensembles. Although he lives in New Orleans, he's currently on a year-long European tour as the musical director for Cirque du Soleil's production "Totem." Over the last 15 years, he has performed over 4,000 shows in 14 countries with Cirque, including appearances on The Tonight Show and at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Living and working in New Orleans has also given him the opportunity to work with Jason and Delfeayo Marsalis, Nicolas Payton, Kermit Ruffins, Nancy King, Johnny Vidacovich and Ed Peterson. He's also performed with many funk artists such as George Porter, Galactic, Skerik and Charlie Hunter, and he was a member of several prominent, award-winning ensembles such as the New World Funk Ensemble, Quintology, Michael Ray and the Cosmic Krewe, Stanton Moore and Theresa Andersson.
Dennard plays piano, organ, and keyboards on this recording. The core of the rhythm section are two stalwarts on the New Orleans music scene, MAX MORAN on acoustic and electric bass, and DOUG BELOTE on drums.
Dennard opens the CD with trio work on "St. Charles Strut." The tune has a funky feel with a hybrid Latin/2nd line beat that was made famous by New Orleans drummer Vernel Fournier. Moran and Belote drive the music forward while Dennard's piano floats on top of the beat with an almost minimalist approach that belies the sophistication of his improvisations.
Dennard wrote "Mojave" when he was still a graduate student. The tune won a songwriting contest and has been recorded by several other artists. It features three A-list musicians who work with Dennard on the Cirque show, including JOSH GEISLER on bansuri flute, MARC SOLIS on woodwinds, and CARLOS LOPEZ on percussion, as well as New Orleans musicians ANDREW MCCLEAN on tabla and sarod, and ERIC LUCERO on trumpet. The composition opens with Geisler's breathy flute line with a middle eastern feel that evokes images of a desert landscape. Belote's driving rhythms create rich textures behind Dennard's bluesy, laid back solo.
"Wanderlust" was influenced by Ralph Towner and the band Oregon. Dennard co-wrote the tune with guitarist BRIAN SEEGER. It features STEVE MASAKOWSKI, one of the top New Orleans jazz artists, on acoustic guitar. Dennard and Masakowski weave sinuous melodies that create subtle, earthy tones.
"Deep Blue," the title track, is a vibey piece that reflects ECM's influence on Dennard. His playing is spacious and meditative but never static. Lucero on trumpet and BRAD WALKERon tenor sax provide contrasting textures.
"Trois Fois," which means "three times" in French, is a jazz waltz ballad. A love song without words that elicits images of lovers walking along the Seine on an autumn afternoon, it modulates between three key centers while the melody floats on top of the gentle bass and drum lines.
Joe Sample, who was a pioneer on the electric keyboard in the sixties, was one of Dennard's earliest influences. Dennard composed "Joe's Crusade" as a tribute to the legendary pianist, and plays electric piano with a subtle, soulful groove that reflects Sample's later playing style. Drummer Belote actually played with Joe Sample and his Creole Joe Band from New Orleans.
"Father," another collaboration with Brian Seeger, was composed when the pair played organ trio gigs together. Dennard added a horn arrangement featuring RAY MOORE on flute and alto and tenor sax, JASON MINGLEDORF on tenor sax and bass clarinet, RICK TROLSEN on trombone, as well as well as Eric Lucero on trumpet and Brian Seeger on guitar. Dennard dedicated the tune, which has a gospel/spiritual feel, to his father who passed away just after the final mix and mastering of the song.
Dennard recorded this album on his recently rebuilt 1927 Steinway Model L grand piano. DEEP BLUE is a soulful collection of compositions that, with his busy schedule, has taken a long time to complete. Dennard is a consummate studio musician who can play in whatever style the gig requires. But despite a very successful career that has taken him around the world, Dennard is first and foremost a serious artist whose true musical voice is soulful and spiritual, tinged with blues and gospel influences that are uniquely his own.

DEEP BLUE is available in stores and online everywhere.
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