Charlie Dennard’s longtime “day job” and globetrotting ways as musical director of Cirque Du Soleil’s “Totem” provide the perfect metaphor for the dynamic, stylistically freewheeling flights of fancy the veteran New Orleans based keyboardist, composer and arranger (working with his rhythmically eclectic trio of bassist Max Moran and drummer Doug Belote) gifts us with on Deep Blue.
In only seven tracks, Dennard creates an expansive sonic universe best epitomized by the dreamy and sensual, but also deeply percussive ballad “Wanderlust.” Dennard launches by grounding himself firmly in the 2nd line strutting of his hometown (with a sprinkle of Latin influence) on “St. Charles Strut,” then hits the open road to “Mojave” with punchy grooves, simmering horns and even the exotic texture of Josh Geisler on bansuri flute. Just as we’re immersing in the “Deep Blue” of his soulful yet spritely piano magic, however, Dennard changes the vibe and lead instruments to offer up some of the other foundational elements of his vast artistry.
Celebrating one of his earliest influences, Joe Sample, he creates a hypnotic old school soul-jazz meditation via electric piano on “Joe’s Crusade.” Then, switching deftly to the organ, Dennard goes full throttle gospel-blues, leading a powerhouse ensemble featuring his trio, guitarist Brian Seeger and a fiery four piece horn section to pay homage to his “Father,” who passed away just after the final mix and mastering of the song. Dennard has three previous noteworthy albums over the past half-decade, but Deep Blue is the best place to start experiencing his exciting, delightfully all over the map musical energies because it’s the first featuring all original compositions.