Deep Blue by New Orleans pianist Charlie Dennard and his crew is a jambalaya in which Dennard displays fine keyboard skills and a flair for writing melodic tunes.
The kick-off, "St. Charles Strut," is all 'Nawlins frontline contemporized. It is a Dennard original which offers an ear-worm melody that's similar to the first few notes of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." That motif reverberates both in major and minor keys throughout the track. "Mojave" is a pulsating driver. It is a textural tone poem with woodwinds blowing desert zephyrs over a pulsing foundation. There's also much percussive flavor on this track. Dennard's solo is a pastel blue and quite tastefully done.
Dennard was mentored by Ellis Marsalis and has fine keyboard chops. His playing is inventive, rhythmic, soulful and at times reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal and Bill Evans. However, he is his own man. He has a fine sense of dynamics. He and his partners keep things tasteful. There's no spotlight grabbing. Bassist Max Moran and drummer Max Belote are well in-pocket with Dennard.
"Wanderlust," a Dennard/Brian Seeger original, alternates from a faster, harder statement to a slower, dreamy base and back again. Guitarist Steve Masakowski and Dennard offer fine solos here. The title track, "Deep Blue" is a gorgeous contemporary piece. Saxman Brad Walker solos beautifully on this track. "Trois Fois" is a strolling triple-metered Gallic gymnopedie.
"Joe's Crusade" is a soft-rock send-up of Jazz Crusaders' Joe Sample's gospel-like tune that has "down south" overtones. Dennard is pure soul here. "Father" continues the sweet soul feel. It's an appropriate closer to a session drenched in Crescent City-flavor.
Deep Blue is a superb album that offers many aural delights. There's no straight-ahead bebop here, but there's a ton of texture and talent. It's fine listening and ear-easy.
St. Charles Strut, Mojave, Wanderlust, Deep Blue, Trois Fois, Joe's Crusade, Father.
Charlie Dennard: piano, organ, keyboards; Doug Belote: drums, Max Moran: acoustic and electric
bass; Steve Masakowski: acoustic guitar; Brian Seeger: electric guitar; Eric Lucero: trumpet and
flugelhorn; Ray Moore: tenor and alto sax, flute; Mark Solis: tenor, alto, baritone sax, flute, bass
clarinet; Jason Mingledorf: tenor sax, bass clarinet; Brad Walker; tenor sax; Rick Trolsen: trombone;
Josh Geisler: bansuri flute; Carlos lopez: percussion; Andrew McLean: tabla, sarod.