Charlie Jennison has been playing jazz in the Seacoast for decades. He is a past president of the Seacoast Jazz Society and is a current member of the Advisory Board.
When asked how he came to have a life in music, Charlie paused, laughed, and said, "it started when I took clarinet lessons in the fourth grade. I loved it and just stuck with it." When he was in his early teens, in Key West Florida, Charlie started getting a few gigs. He was too young to go into clubs, so his mom drove him to play piano sets. I know the years don't coincide (Charlie is too young), but when he told me about playing piano in Key West I got this instant image of 15-year old Charlie playing piano as Earnest Hemingway put away various rum concoctions while his mother sat in the car waiting for last call.
There's one question that I have gotten in the habit of asking jazz musicians. Some answer, and some don't, still others answer but ask me not to write their response. When I inquired of Charlie whether the musicians or the audience get more out of the gigs, he deflected and redirected me very tactfully, "I like to play the kind of music that people can relate to, can sing a melody to, tap a foot to, that to me feels like more audience participation."
Charlie's biography on his website is as follows:
Multi-instrumentalist Charlie Jennison plays lead alto sax, flute, and soprano sax with the Seacoast Big Band and is also a member of the Capital Jazz Orchestra that plays frequently at the Capital Center for the Arts in Concord, NH. Currently a partner in the "CJ Duo," he can be found playing piano or saxophone at the Centennial Inn in Concord on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with CJ Poole on bass.
For more than 30 years, Charlie worked with Exeter, NH, based jazz pianist Tommy Gallant, a teacher at the Berklee School of Music and an alumnus of Woody Herman's band, who heavily influenced Charlie's growth as a musician and music educator. Charlie also studied with such major jazz figures as Jerry Bergonzi, Charlie Mariano, Jerry Coker, and Ted Casher.
Additionally, Charlie has shared the stage or been in the recording studio with such notable jazz musicians as Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy DeFranco, Alan Dawson, and Marshal Royal as well as backing up live performances for other exceptional musicians such as Rosemary Clooney, Carmen Bradford, Natalie Cole, Andy Williams, Delfeayo Marsalis, jazz violinist Sara Caswell, saxophonist Grace Kelly, and singer/songwriter Jon Bon Jovi!
Over the course of his career, Charlie has taught private music lessons at Dartmouth College, University of New Hampshire, and the University of Maine, as well as courses in Music History and Jazz Improvisation at UNH and Granite State College. He has also taught at St. Paul's School, the UNH Summer Youth Music School, and the Phillips Exeter Summer Music Program.
A versatile educator, whether presenting jazz performances and workshops for libraries, jazz societies, and schools throughout the New England region or coaching a jazz combo, directing a jazz band, or giving a lecture on the history of jazz in the New Hampshire Seacoast, Charlie brings his love for music to all things jazz-related.
Currently teaching at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he is a member of the faculty jazz quartet, Charlie also offers private instruction on classical and jazz saxophone for all levels of experience, as well as jazz piano instruction for beginning and intermediate players.