Charlie Dennard "From Brazil to New Orleans" CD Release Party

Charlie Dennard "From Brazil to New Orleans" CD Release Party Mon., April 14th Sets 8 & 10 pm at The Secret Society (116 NE Russell St, Portland, OR 97202). Featuring Charlie Dennard - keyboards, Clay Giberson - keyboards, Steve Cristofferson - keyboards, James Mack - percussion, Josh Geisler - guitar, bansuri flute, Robert Moore - trumpet, David Evans - sax, flute, Annette Bauer - recorder, percussion, Michael Raynor - drums, John Moak - trombone
New CD

Charlie Dennard "From Brazil to New Orleans" ((Deneaux Music)) Street Date: May 6, 2014
At its best, the concept of fusion is combining specific elements to form an entity that is completely new, but fully respectful of its origins. This concept is defined to perfection with Charlie Dennard's enthralling new album From Brazil to New Orleans.

Both New Orleans and Brazil represent the very essence of fusion in that both musical cultures have combined a wide palette of sources to create two of the most distinctive forms of music. The imaginative keyboardist/composer/arranger has forged the album's concept by paying tribute to several under-recognized Brazilian composers, placing them squarely in the heart of New Orleans' multi-cultural landscape. The intention is to take the listener on a world-wide journey – a mission that is most impressively accomplished.

Dennard is thoroughly equipped to pilot this excursion with a depth of experience that takes him from classical orchestras to performing with major artists in jazz, blues, funk and the entire breadth of the New Orleans sound, to being musical director of Cirque de Soleil's touring production of Totem. He explains his intentions for this album in straightforward terms: "My main goal is to make beautiful music that feels good and is emotional. To me, the music of Brazil and New Orleans have all of that and more, so it just seems logical for me to put them together in one big gumbo and 'stir the pot' so to speak…"

That pot – brimming with a marvelously compelling and heady concoction – provides a sumptuous feast of aural delights that defy categorization but remain delectably familiar. Celebratory horns; Brazilian, African, Latin and second-line funky rhythms; masterful jazz ensemble improvisation; and Dennard's full command of acoustic and electric keyboards are all brewed together with the addition of some unusually piquant spicing. Plaintive cello, bansuri flute, dulcet bass clarinet, wisps of accordion, a unison line with a recorder, a heavenly Afro-Brazilian vocal and ambient electronics are added as special touches. Together it all produces a rich, almost cinematic narrative that is fully cohesive and utterly uncontrived.

Dennard has assembled a superb international cast of 20 musicians to fulfill his vision - mostly from New Orleans, but also from such far-flung places as Brazil, London, Lebanon, Germany and New York City. From a filigreed piano/cello duet to a sprawling 10-piece ensemble – and all sizes in between – the ensemble is structured to ideally convey the story contained in each composition through Dennard's exceptional arrangements. And the pieces don't fall into genre categories. There isn't a brass band item or a Nevilles-type song or a samba with a second-line drummer. Instead these elements are all woven into the mix, sometimes as a hint of color, others in full bloom and occasionally in a stunningly unexpected blend – and while no two tracks are even similar, the continuity is totally fluid.

Three pieces have large four to six horn ensembles, built around trumpeter Eric Lucero, trombonist Rick Trolsen and multi-reedmen Ray Moore and Brent Rose; in places augmented by Matt Perrine's tuba, Jason Mingledorf's bass clarinet and Josh Geisler on bansuri flute.

The groove on Capoeira Mata Um is a hybrid of a New Orleans 2nd line and Boogaloo with five horns joyfully dancing over second-line drumming. The horn lines are built around the bass clarinet, creating a uniquely rich texture and evoking not only the traditional brass band sound, but African highlife, Afro-Cuban son and even a touch of Fela. Emerging from this rich sonic palette are sparkling solos by Dennard on B3 and drummer Doug Belote.

Asa Branca is an atmospheric, highly evocative piece ushered in by Geisler's bansuri flute. The time flows freely like thick honey with solo statements shining through the slowly shifting shroud of sound like lights appearing through a warm mist. Dennard's beautifully-structured darkly lustrous solo is the centerpiece.

Quando o Galo Cantar is a jubilant foray of lavish horn lines over pulsing tuba, sizzling second-line drumming and scintillating percussion. Though a New Orleans brass band is at its core, the feeling of the African and Indian Brass Bands, Gangbe and Jaipur Kawa, are also evoked in the mix.

At the other end of the spectrum, Senhorinha is an exquisite, deeply moving ballad for Dennard's acoustic piano and cellist Jack Craft, with Dennard's elegant solo enhanced by Craft's warm resonance.

Daring suspension of rhythm never undermines the soul-jazz core of Valsa Luisiana, a Dennard original. With guitarist Brian Seeger in a delicious Grant Green mode, Dennard's deliberate, darkly funkified Fender Rhodes, Tommy Sciple's soulful bass and Belote's brilliant drumming, the quartet audaciously deconstructs the time and slices it into bite-sized pieces.

Another quartet in a more up-tempo funky feel makes Africa Mae a fascinating ride. With Dennard on B3, this Afro-Brazilian composition explores the territory that Larry Young brought to the jazz organ - a robustly adventurous piece with boldly swinging Dennard and brilliant support by Scott Myers on guitar, stoked by the fiery rhythms of Belote and percussionist Billy Hulting.

Josh Geisler's bansuri flute is also highlighted on Dennard's Itape, a briskly cooking piece built on Sciple's powerful bass ostinato. Fluid flute and rhythmic piano solos lead into a vividly syncopated piano/bass unison line over Belote's spirited drumming to close out this dynamic piece.

Abrindo a Porta shifts from soothing serenity to virile energy as rubato segments alternate with driving rhythms, and Craft's euphonious cello voicings adding opulent color.

This remarkable album closes on a most exotic note with Ganga Zumbi. The Afro-Brazilian style features lyrics in a mixture of Yoruba and Portuguese, beautifully sung by Tatiana Parra. Her radiantly sonorous voice melds with Dennard's synthesizer and programming, Steve Masakowski's 7-string acoustic guitar, Brent Rose's sinuous soprano sax and flute, and the swirling percussion of Belote and James Mack to create a luminous and stirring finale to this extraordinary musical experience.

Charlie Dennard has not only created a masterpiece, he's forged into a new genre.

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