charlie dennard

Charlie Dennard (with squeezebox) and band perform at Portland's Secret Society Monday night.

Charlie Dennard (with squeezebox) and band perform at Portland’s Secret Society Monday night.

 by ANGELA ALLEN

In Charlie Dennard’s multi-continental musical world, fusion is anything but a dirty word. Then again, when the term is limited to the passé, 1970s-era quasi-mind-bending melding of rock, funk and electronic music, it does translate as a four-letter word to Dennard, though he doesn’t swear too much. The 45-year-old  jazz musician/ composer/Cirque du Soleil musical director is as conscious of his polite French roots reaching back centuries into American history (his label is Deneaux Music) as he is of his Southern heritage. Dennard’s southern ingredients include a childhood in Birmingham, Ala., and an adult life, off and on in New Orleans. He studied with jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis (father of brothers Wynton, Branford, et al.) in the late ‘90s at the University of New Orleans, where he earned a master’s degree in music.

Fusion—that word, again— does accurately describe Charlie Dennard’s brand-new CD, From Brazil to New Orleans. Untethered to any particular genre, it’s far more than a crossover collection of tired-out Preservation Hall jazz and overworked Brazilian bossa nova. Dennard’s CD even leaves mid-century bossa nova behind for newer music.

“Brazilian musicians have moved on,” he says. “They even think of bossa as elevator music.” Dennard and a band of Portland jazz all stars and Cirque du Soleil musicians will cook up a gumbo of jazz/Brazilian fusion at Monday night’s CD release party at Portland’s Secret Society.

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