The sphere of music intrigues Pascal Dennis. He is a student of it in the best way, admitting there is far more to learn than he knows. With a mind that never rests, his thirst for exploring music is felt in the music he releases now. He might take you through decades of musical experiences in one sitting. You are going to have one such experience. This is his album, Nicaragua Moon.
Your sound is like the resurgence of the sound that defined the lounge and new jazz wave of music. How did you gravitate towards this?
I write the music I love – Bossa nova, Swing, show tunes, classic country, R & B.I’m lucky enough to have a band that loves these genres as much as I do – and can make them their own.My heroes include composers like George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter and Antonio Carlos Jobim.I love their complex harmonies, elegant lyrics & effortless cool. I love their style, wit and sense of irony. The fact that you have to listen to a song several times before you ‘get it’.I want to create songs that will last longer than I do – the way theirs have.
A carousel of sound
I also had the opportunity to ask Pascal Dennis some questions about his album. There is a treasure trove of tones and execution of the song that is a lost art. For example, you can hear his love for Bossa nova tang and the Rat Pack sound with his opening song. His melodic voice is entrapment, like Harry Bellafonte- it mesmerizes and carries you for the journey. As though we’re in a dearth of time, he brings blues to the vinyl. It is the next song, without transition, and that just shows what an incredible musician he is. It is a classic way of executing it, the synth taking the background and the keys and guitar going to work with the licks.
At the same time, we want to take these marvelous retro styles and create something new. And that’s where the Crazy Angels band comes in.I’ll bring a new composition like ‘Diana’ or ‘Dark Eyes’ to the band and say, ‘Look, here’s a Bossa nova with an early 1960’s feel.’Our band members may not be familiar with, say, Stan Getz or Jobim, but they internalize the music, transform it, and create something fresh and exciting. Or I’ll bring a piece like ‘Long Gone Daddy’ and say, ‘Here’s a Texas swing with a 1940’s Bob Wills feel.’ They may not know Bob Wills, but again, they’ll absorb it and create something new.Our band is so good, they inspire me. I want to write songs that are worthy of them.
It is truly his love for music that makes these songs so enriching. Furthermore, it isn’t like he is making these to prove a point. Each song feels like the real deal because of the research and love of textural depth that has gone into it. Pascal Dennis brings the time period to your plate as though he has a portal.
Within a new world
Themes that revolve around your life make up your lyrics. Are these literal translations for the feel, or do fictional tales inspire you?
There’s a saying that ‘history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes’. In the same way, my lyrics ‘rhyme’ with the events of my life. ‘Starlight’ and ‘Gone Forever Blues’ are songs of raw heartbreak, which God knows, I’ve experienced.’ Blues in the Morning’ and ‘Ballad of the Red Sea’ reflect the marvelous places & people I’ve been privileged to know in my travels.‘ Covid Blues’ and ‘Only the Bottle Knows the Way I Feel Tonight’ reflect the realities of small town life in America, UK, and Canada.’
‘Nicaragua Moon’, the title song, is dedicated to my friend, the Nicaraguan poet, Francisco Santos, who had to flee political extremism like so many other Latin Americans.And ‘Imperial Bar & Grill’ is a true-to-life telling of growing up in a poor migrant family, and making ends meet in a family diner.Other songs, are inspired by goofy and true stories. ‘Anchorman Blues’ is inspired by Bill O’Reilly’s infamous in-air meltdown. ‘A Girl Named Floyd’ is inspired by Johnny Cash and by the great female MMA fighters.
In the mood for love
His songs like Starlight and Diana long for a lost love and enamouring figments of the mind. Pascal Dennis doesn’t go after love like a maniac or a writer, it is a meditation on it as a musician. What he achieves are penned poems and proses, songs that are tainted with the pain of experience, heartbreak and loss. All of this is felt, through the dramatic storyboard he creates with his songs. Like Pascal says, A Girl Named Floyd has the Johnny Cash brand around it, but his lyrics make it a unique narrative for everyone to enjoy. There is the joy of lounge music and jazz escapades with songs like Two Cigarettes.
Who would some of your major inspirations for this style of music be?
In addition to the great jazz composers I mentioned above, I’m inspired by the artistry, longevity and indomitable spirit of Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson.I was always a ‘John Lennon guy’, but I’ve come to appreciate McCartney’s genius and humanity. In his 80’s he continues to ‘forge ahead’ as he says, always looking to create something fresh and new.His best compositions are on a par with those of the great jazz composers. His optimism, energy and decency are beyond compare.
Brian Wilson continues to make gorgeous music, despite a difficult childhood, drug addiction, mental illness, and the loss of his brothers Carl and Dennis. I love his complex harmonies and bittersweet lyrics, set against the palm trees and beaches of southern California.
Music on wheels
As Pascal Dennis travels, his music does too. That’s why you hear a bank of stories, incidents and anecdotes filtered through song. You could suppose this has been his journal through Covid, travelling and creating this incredible body of work. It is a double album with four times the impact.
If proposed to you, which is a genre of sound you’d like to explore, which you aren’t comfortable with currently?
I love the music of the Middle East and would like to explore it in future albums.I’ve written a few songs using Arabic & Byzantine modes and instrumentation, for example, which we’re recording & hope to release.
I also found the way this album is composed very interesting. Pascal peppers the genres from everything including R&B tunes to blues and Bossa Nova, with show tunes to lounge jazz coming through. This is an exploration that creates an encyclopedia of sound that has been crafted with intimate experience and purposeful composition. It doesn’t only stand the test of time, but when compressed, shows the travels and tales of a raconteur and musician who has used his music to heal-himself and others who took a moment to listen.
What do you have planned next in terms of music? Something that is in the works? What about touring and live performances?
Our third album, ‘Shame on the Sun’, will be released in April 2023. Like our first two albums, ‘Crazy Angels’, and ‘Nicaragua Moon’, ‘Shame on the Sun’ comprises 16 songs in a variety of styles: Classic Country, R & B, Bossa nova, Swing, Pop, and show tunes. The Crazy Angels band just keeps getting better. As I said, I feel honored to be able to write for, and play with them.
Our fourth album, ‘Love is a Drug from Hell’ is in production, and the tentative release date is early 2024. Now that the pandemic is subsiding (knock on wood), we’re beginning to do private events. Hopefully, as we get traction we’ll be able to tour as well. Regardless, we’re going to keep making music.
Now you can hear his new chapter with Tricky Dick Forever, his new single. His album Crazy Angels is one I can’t wait to review-learning what he has from navigating isolation to the creative output created as a result. Listen to his incredible album here: