(Charlie Dennard – Hammond organ, arranger, producer, Fender Rhodes (track 7); Todd Duke – electric guitar; Doug Belote – drums (tracks 1, 2, 4-8); Geoff Clapp – drums (tracks 3, 9-10))
Soulful jazz never goes out of style. Just ask New Orleans-based Hammond organist Charlie Dennard. He’s been a part of the Crescent City music scene since the late ‘90s. On his latest, hour-long effort, 5 O’Clock Charlie—more about Charlie, later in this review—Dennard resurrects his guitar/organ/drums trio. 5 O’Clock Charlie follows in the footsteps of Dennard’s prior release, Brazil to New Orleans (2013), which focused on Brazilian music with plenty of guest musicians to fill up the sound. Here, Dennard strips everything down to the basics, and the result is a sharply-delineated excursion through R’nB, roots-inclined jazz material with hints to soul giants (James Brown), previous Hammond players (Jimmy Smith, Larry Young and Don Patterson) and much more. If anyone wants to experience Dennard’s new jazz material, you can stream the whole recording online. Better yet, listen while you read this review. If you don’t have the time, there’s also a 4:30 audio sampler.
Dennard supplies a funky bottom end and groove, while guitarist Todd Duke offers blues riffs and tasty solos and Geoff Clapp and Doug Belote add textured and driving drums (Clapp is heard on three tracks; while Belote, who was also on Brazil to New Orleans, is behind the drum kit on the other six cuts). The threesome come smoking out of the gate with a tribute to guitarist Grant Green, Dennard’s six-minute swinger “Grant’s Pants,” which is a backbeat-powered, vamp-energized, funk-feast. While Duke contributes some aptly Green-esque licks, Dennard slips in some Smith-like organ stylings. There’s more guitar than organ, which is a problem elsewhere, but it’s hard to argue with such a strutting, soulful impact. Dennard evokes Larry Young on his “Booby Trap,” a modal number which has an edgy, slightly tense structure due to ascending patterns and a looser sway. Dennard and Duke trade 16-bar solos which creates an interesting exchange. Dennard’s “Let’s Go” has an urban and urbane feel, more of a Big Apple aspect than a Southern stance: no beer here, but you can imagine someone sipping a Manhattan while nodding to this one. The title track, “5 O’Clock Blues,” has a gospel-ish characteristic, with a walking bass line, bluesy guitar, and Belote’s firmly in-the-pocket percussion. The tune’s name is inspired by an episode of the television series, M*A*S*H, called “5 O’Clock Charlie,” about a punctual but inexpert North Korean bomber pilot. Dennard, Duke and Clapp honor the comedic TV show in another way with the CD’s concluding selection, a somewhat surprisingly funky treatment of “Suicide Is Painless,” Johnny Mandel’s famous main theme used in both the movie and subsequent television program. The trio utilizes a bouncing jauntiness with a walking bass line in 4/4 time. 5 O’Clock Charlie was also the designation for one of Dennard’s earlier bands. See how it is all connected?
There are two other covers which are memorable. One of Dennard’s inspirations is Larry Goldings, and Clapp, Duke and Dennard provide a Southern-saturated swagger on Golding’s “Back in the Day,” which Golding’s did on his 2001 outing, As One. “Back in the Day” features robust guitar, punchy organ and Duke’s second-line, slanted rhythm. Guitarist Peter Bernstein performs on As One, and Goldings helped on Bernstein’s 1998 record, Earth Tones: which may explain why Dennard adapts Bernstein’s “Carrot Cake,” which is on Earth Tones. Dennard doesn’t change the arrangement much. Dennard’s Hammond tone is deeper than Golding’s, and Duke’s guitar timbre is more open than Bernstein’s. But the exultant, R’nB verve comes across precise and clear. The top organ jazz trios understand versatility, as well as tradition, is what makes this kind of soul-jazz work well. Dennard, Duke, Belote and Clapp perfectly balance straightforward organ jazz with modern touches, an adventurous spirit with a back-to-basics approach. Don’t be late, 5 O’Clock Charlie is worth waiting for.
TrackList: Grant’s Pants; Booby Trap; Back in the Day; Let’s Go; 5 O’Clock Blues; French Lick; Hunch; Blues by Five; Carrot Cake; Suicide Is Painless (M.A.S.H. Theme).
We had a great time performing at the Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans last weekend during the Satchmo Summer Festival. Here’s a clip of the last 2 songs that we did – “Carrot Cake” by Peter Bernstein and “French Lick” by me. Featuring Doug Belote (drums), Todd Duke (guitar) and myself (organ). Enjoy!
Thank you once again OffBeat Magazine in New Orleans for such a nice review of my latest 5 O’Clock Charlie CD! We will be promoting the release this weekend at the Louisiana Music Factory located just downstairs from the OffBeat Magazine headquarters on Frenchman St this Sat Aug 1st from 2-3 pm. They used to have free beer at these events… 😉 Cheers!
Organist Charlie Dennard was a regular on the New Orleans jazz scene beginning around the mid-1990s. He took an unusual detour when he signed on to become the musical director of the renowned theatrical/circus troupe Cirque du Soleil.
Dennard is back in our midst, and in 2014 released From Brazil to New Orleans. This time out, he’s solidly on American soil with a program that includes funk, groove, jazz, swing and blues. It even includes the theme song from the popular movie and television series “M*A*S*H,” “Suicide Is Painless.”
The CD kicks off with one of several collaborated compositions by Dennard and friend, guitarist Brian Seeger. It’s Todd Duke, not Seeger, who’s working the fretboard here, on the soul/funk number, “Grant’s Pants” and throughout the CD.
It’s great to hear Duke, who remains best known at the side of vocalist John Boutte, apply his talents in an organ trio setting. Dennard gives Duke plenty of room to stretch out while he provides essential support with some big fat chords. Manning the drums is alternatively Doug Belote or Geoff Clapp.
Clapp is behind the drum for one of the album’s non-originals, Larry Goldings’ “Back in the Day,” a tasty jazz groove on which Dennard shows his cool approach to the Hammond B-3. Things start swinging on Dennard’s “5 O’Clock Blues” with Belote laying it down on drums. It holds that classic organ trio sound that really took over the jazz scene in the mid-1970s.
Really looking forward to playing keyboards with Seth Walker on the road again this week! The band will feature Myles Weeks on bass and Eric Bolivar on drums. Seth is an outstanding songwriter, guitarist and singer whose influences range from Ray Charles and BB King to Tom Waits and Willie Nelson. It’s always fun playing with him – hope you can join the party!
Thursday 7/16 – New Orleans – Chickie Wah Wah at 9pm
Friday 7/17- Natchez MS – Rolling River Bistro & 408 Listening Room
Saturday 7/18 – Oxford MS – Proud Larry’s at 9PM
Ticket info is at www.sethwalker.com
Great Gig at Cafe Istanbul the other night. Thanks to Matt Lemmier for the invite. Was great to hit it with Stanton Moore again. Keep an eye out for this gig in the future as we all wonder what was the 70’s sound?
Big thanks to all my friends and fans who came out to the CD Release Party for 5 O’Clock Charlie. In case you missed it (or want to re-live it), I’ve uploaded a video sampler from the gig.
A bunch of people to thank, like Chickie Wah Wah, for having us to Ray Moore, Kevin Stevens and Geoff Clapp for sitting in and stirring the pot.
Regular readers of TVD will recognize Dennard’s name from my coverage of his first solo release, last year’s From Brazil To New Orleans. The new record is also a return to his roots playing Hammond B-3 in the organ trio setting. After fifteen years touring the globe with the Cirque Du Soleil, Dennard is back in New Orleans. 5 O’clock Charlie was also the name of a band he led in the 1990s.
This new recording, 5 O’clock Charlie, demonstrates the depth of his musical talent since it is so different from his first effort, which mined connections between two of the musical capitals of the world.
The band performing Friday night, and the core musicians on the record, features two stalwarts of the local scene—guitarist Todd Duke and drummer Doug Belote. The show will also feature special guests Eric Lucero on trumpet and Ray Moore on saxophone and flute.
Showtime is 9:30 PM
Charlie Dennard, a New Orleans based keyboardist, announces his new jazz organ trio release, 5 O’clock Charlie. On this recording, Dennard showcases seven original compositions and three cover tunes that capture the simple, organic quality of musicians playing together in the moment. In the late 1990’s, Charlie had a standing gig at New Orleans’ famous Funky Butt with his band, then called 5 O’Clock Charlie. This recording marks a return to those roots, just as Charlie has returned to New Orleans after touring the world. This recording is groove-based, funky and fun.