“My main goal is to make beautiful music that feels good and is emotional,” explains Charlie Dennard talking about his recently released, self-produced album, From Brazil to New Orleans. “To me the music of Brazil and New Orleans have all of that and more, so it just seems logical for me to put them together in one big gumbo and ‘stir the pot.’” To that end he has gathered together a group of stellar musicians, many from New Orleans, but others from around the world to work on a repertoire of lesser-known Brazilian compositions in a variety of ensembles from a duo to a dynamic 10-piece outfit. Each ensemble is structured to deal specifically with Dennard’s arrangement.
Not only did Dennard produce and arrange all the music as well as compose a couple of the tracks, but he plays on each track, sometimes piano, sometimes synth, to say nothing of accordion, melodica, Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes and a bit of percussion to boot.
Whether it’s his piano duet with cellist Jack Craft on the beautifully lyrical ballad “Senhorinha,” or the happily horn-dominated “Capoeira Mata Um,” if your aim is to create music that “feels good and is emotional,” with this album you have hit the eye of the bull. On track after track you can hear the Brazilian sound blended with just the right touch of New Orleans, a bit of second line here, a tinge of soul there. At its best the music is magical.
“Abrindo a Porta” is a haunting sextet piece featuring Steve Masakowski on acoustic guitar and Craft on cello. “Asa Branca” gets an exotic read with Josh Geisler playing bansuri flute, and a sweet piano solo from Dennard, before he picks up the accordion to conclude the song. He works with the Fender Rhodes in an arrangement of his own “Valsa Luisiana” for quartet which features Brian Seeger on guitar. The album ends with a lovely vocal from Tatiana Parra on “Ganga Zumbi.”
New Orleans and Brazil: turns out, in the right hands, they make for a happy marriage.
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