FAME Review: Charlie Dennard - From Brazil to New Orleans
Charlie Dennard - From Brazil to New Orleans

From Brazil to New Orleans

Charlie Dennard

Available from Charlie Dennard's Bandcamp site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

In the promo lit to this elegant release, it's claimed that "at its best, the concept of fusion is [a matter of] combining specific elements to form an entity that is completely new but fully respectful of its origins". I have to differ with that just a tad. Fusion is never completely new—no music has been so since the advents of free jazz and of the Nonesuch era of electronicists—and I think, though I don't disagree with the "fully respectful" aspect, that authenticity is more important than respect, and, most often, authenticity in any new wrinkle is located in the intelligence of the crafter rather than the echo of the work's antecedents. I say this because Charlie Dennard succeeds admirably in that individual stamp of personality and creativity. That, rather then the glow of the past, is his strength.

Himself plying a number of keyboards, accordion, melodica, and percussion, Dennard assembled a top flight assemblage in rotating ensembles of varying size to flesh out a nonet of cuts incorporating Braziliana with Weather Report with rhumba with swing with the Spyrogyra era (themselves borrowing heavily from other 70s fusioneers), with CTI-BlueNote-ECM-etc. with, well, a list on ingredients too lengthy to document but cleanly and deftly cohered in a sound immediately identifiable as latinate/jazzinate in origin…but mystifying in manifestation.

Hear that cello in Abrindo a Porta? It shouldn't be there, yet it slots in beautifully, hand in glove. Then there's the strangely quasi-Arabic guitar detuning and birdflight Hubert Laws-y flute in Asa Branca, elements floating above a pool of calm in a shaded oasis shifting every so often into grandeur and sunlight. Though it isn't stated, I'm assuming Dennard also did the arranging as well as all the writing, and it's in Asa Branca that the depth of both is well illustrated, its stripped-down environment clearly laying out the levels heard in all other cuts, the denser sophistications more fully invested in heady whirlwinds of everything we listen to music for. Again, I won't go so far as to agree with promo that Charlie's "forged a new genre", he's too well companioned all over the map for that, but the guy's definitely placed himself among the current vanguard. More than anything else, think of a renovated Weather Report……and we all remember the delirium experienced when we discovered Body Electric and that band's other epochal releases.

Track List:

  • Itape
  • Capoeira Mata Um
  • Abrindo a Porta
  • Asa Branca
  • Quando o Gaklo Cantar
  • Senhorinha
  • Valsu Luisiana
  • Afrika Mae
  • Ganga Zumbi
All songs written by Charlie Dennard.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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