Dennard has proven himself an excellent leader and performer time and again but now he releases an album that is completely dedicated to his own writing. It was worth the wait.
St. Charles Strut is a straight up trio, with Doug Belote’s drums giving the cool introduction. Max Moran carries the bass and Dennard, of course, is on piano. Trois Fois and Joe’s Crusade are the other two tracks to feature the trio only. As a huge fan of the piano, bass, and drums trio format, these were especially appealing to me.
Each one of those is different, from the cool hop to the sweet bop then to a Fender Rhodes lullaby. These guys are tight and together. Understanding the dynamics of the trio established in these three pieces gives a deeper understanding and greater appreciation for what they bring to the tracks with the guest musicians.
Mojave is beauty with Marc Solis on flute, alto and tenor saxes, and bass clarinet. Josh Geisler adds the bansuri flute and Eric Lucero adds his smoking trumpet. But then the added percussion of Carlos Lopez, and tabla and sarod of Andrew McLean on top of Belote’s drums make this a rhythm-lovers dream. Dennard carries the cool melody and it makes the listener think how much fun these guys must be to see live.
Wanderlust features Steve Masakowski on guitar and the passing of the melodic lines from him to Dennard and back with the sharing in between is terrific. As amazing as Dennard is and has been covering the tunes of others, hearing him interpret his own compositions is incredibly rewarding.
Deep Blue, the title track, adds Brad Walker’s tenor sax and Lucero’s trumpet to the trio. It is here that Dennard’s darker shades are given greater rein. Darker but not melancholic or somber. This was the piece that drew me the most, I think. The mixing—done by Ben Lorio with mastering by David Farrell—was intriguing and satisfying.
The album ends with Father, a bit of New Orleans Gospel with Brian Seeger’s bluesy guitar and a horn section of Lucero, Ray Moore on flute, alto and tenor saxes, Jason Mingledorf on tenor sax and bass clarinet, and Rick Trolsen on trombone. This was such a great piece to close the album. Lucero’s flugelhorn was…righteous. Seeger’s guitar…sanctified. But that trio…they are the stuff Jazz is made for.
Charlie Dennard has made a remarkable contribution to the corpus of the Jazz trio in the composition and execution of Deep Blue. I love this album.
~Travis Rogers, Jr. is The Jazz Owl