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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.
Track Listing: St. Charles Strut, Mojave, Wanderlust, Deep Blue, Trois Fois, Joe's Crusade, Father.
Personnel: 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.
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab
I love jazz because of Elmer Bernstein's score for the 1957 American film noir Sweet Smell of Success, which I first saw as a teenager in the '70s. As a playwright/screenwriter, I write to music and I'm always looking for ways to incorporate it into my work; the most recent example being Bob Crosby and the Bobcats Big Noise From Winnetka, which became the signature theme for my last stage play The Gift of the Gab. My late great pa-in-law--the actor Keith Michell--wins the contest hands down however, as he co-starred in the 1962 movie All Night Long rubbing shoulders with Dave Brubeck, Keith Christie, Bert Courtley, John Dankworth, Ray Dempsey, Allan Ganley, Tubby Hayes, Charles Mingus, Barry Morgan, Kenny Napper, Colin Purbrook and John Scott! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall of that soundstage!
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