Q&A with drummer Kenwood Dennard

What do you like about playing the more intimate venues like the Vergennes Opera House?
I love the sound and the fact that you can see people’s faces in the audience in intimate settings such as the Vergennes Opera House. That intimacy and connection is what music is all about.
In your history of playing with the greats, do you have a favorite memory or two?
I have to go with the first couple that come to my head because there are so many. I love Jaco Pastorius, and we played in Amsterdam in 1984; the name of the venue was Concert Gebeouw. I remember we arrived on the stage a full 24 hours before the concert began and we just sat there clapping, making noises, laughing and sending our energy throughout the hall. We exclaimed to each other how we were “gonna tear that sucka down.” And then we did it 24 hours later.
Another wonderful memory was 1991 with Miles Davis and Quincy Jones in Montreux, Switzerland, at the Jazz festival. I recall a long a wonderful rehearsal with me on percussion — Miles Davis showed up 12 hours late. The subsequent drumming performance the next day was a highlight of my life. The crowd went wild, Quincy smiled and even the stoic Miles Davis burst into a broad smile and gave a thumbs up to the drum chair. Like most people, I had never seen Miles smile but I sure did when he and I played together.
How would you describe the feeling you get when you’re playing music?
When playing music I get a feeling of deep connection with the universe. I feel like there is nothing we can’t do. Even in the depths of sadness, the final destination is joy.
Why do you think horn players like Miles Davis and Maceo Parker were attracted to your style?
Maceo told me that (his 1992 live album) “Life on Planet Groove” was a pivotal turning point of his career and I think he felt connected to my musical outpouring of love. I believe this form of love is the highest form of energy we can share with one another. As many can attest, Maceo has a motto, “We love you!” I try to share that love with all my being with my fellow musicians as well as the audience. Plus, I listen and try to be the most supportive musician I can be. I stay in the present and support the collective energy the band puts forth. I think that is why people like Miles and Maceo are attracted to my style.

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