Thousands of miles separate Brazil and New Orleans, but pianist/composer Charlie Dennard thinks these two locales are a lot closer than that. This album is his way of showing that.
Dennard, a former student of Ellis Marsalis who's served as a music director for Cirque du Soleil productions and shared the stage with drummer Stanton Moore, trumpeter Kermit Ruffins and numerous other NOLA heavies, uses a rotating cast of twenty musicians to put life into this line of thinking. While the aim of this project may have been to highlight the parallels between these places and merge the musical language(s) connected to each, the end result isn't so simple and tidy. Dennard doesn't just stick with Brazil and New Orleans; his music goes all over the map.
"Itape," the album's opening track, is a Brazilian- flavored fusion number. The follow-up"Capoeira Mata Um"is both swaggering and swampy. Dennard writes for an expanded instrumental line-up here, as everything from bass clarinet to guitar to flute to melodica makes an appearance, and all of it fits together perfectly. This song speaks to both of the titular cultures, proving to be the truest musical manifestation of the Brazil-meets-New Orleans ideal that the album has to offer. "Abrindo A Porta" is a refined offering that shines a spotlight on Steve Masakowski's guitar work; "Asa Branca" exists in the space where New Age music meets the southern breeze; and "Quando O Galo Cantar" speaks to New Orleans' love affair with brass bands and party atmospheres.
As the second half of the album unfolds, Dennard strips everything away. "Senhorinha" finds him behind a piano, working the simple-and-pretty angle with cellist Jack Craft. The soulful "Valsa Luisiana" and hard-grooving "Africa Mae" follow, but Dennard takes a turn in a vastly different direction on the album-ending "Ganga Zumbi." His Cirque du Soleil experiences inform this Afro-Brazilian dream. Synthesizers, programmed sounds, piano, guitar, and various other instruments move beneath Tatiana Parra's warm vocals at various times.
From Brazil to New Orleans pulls from both places but it doesn't draw a straight line between the two. Dennard's tastes are too many and varied for him to follow such a simple and direct path.
Track Listing: Itape; Capoeira Mata Um; Abrindo A Porta; Asa Branca; Quando O Galo
Cantar; Senhorinha; Valsa Luisiana; Africa Mae; Ganga Zumbi.
Personnel: Charlie Dennard: piano, Hammond organ, Fender rhodes, accordion,
melodica, synths, synth programming, percussion; Doug Belote: drums
(1-3, 7-9); Gerald French: drums (4, 5); Matt Perrine: bass (4),
sousaphone (5); Tommy Sciple: bass (1, 3, 7, 9); Steve Masakowsi: 7-
string acoustic guitar (3, 9); Brian Seeger: guitar (1, 7); Josh
Geisler: bansuri flute (1, 4), guitar (4); Scott Myers: guitar (8),
triangle (5); Rick Musallam: guitar (2); Eric Lucero: trumpet (2, 4,
5), flugelhorn (2, 4); Brent Rose: soprano saxophone (2, 9), tenor
saxophone (5), flute (4, 5, 9), shekere (5); Ray Moore: baritone
saxophone (5), alto saxophone (5), soprano saxophone (4), flute (2);
Rick Trolsen: trombone (2, 4, 5); Michael Skinkus: percussion (2, 4,
5); James Mack: percussion (3, 9); Jason Mingledorf: bass clarinet
(2); Annette Bauer: recorder (5); Jack Craft: cello; Tatiana Parra:
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.