Most jazz listeners are surely acquainted with one of the genre’s foremost trombonists, Steve Davis. The good news is his 25-year-old son, guitarist Tony Davis (hence referred to as Tony to avoid any confusion) has also picked up the mantle and is continuing the family’s musical legacy. Not only does Davis display considerable talent with his swinging guitar style, he wrote most of the tunes on this debut as a leader, Golden Year. Supporting him on this hard hitting session are a solid rhythm section comprised of several old friends: pianist David Bryant, bassist Dezron Douglas, and powerhouse drummer Eric McPherson. For good measure, talented newcomer Alina Engibaryan lends her voice to a few tracks, and Tony’s father Steve Davis along with family friend Steve Wilson also make guest appearances on the record. JK Kim adds drums on two tracks.
Tony attributes the title to a year in which he received his master’s degree, recorded this album with friends (last June) and mentors, and began touring. Of course, this the latter has come to a standstill, but this release should give him some needed exposure. The originals combine many styles, according to tony – the blues, Jimi Hendrix (as in a separate genre), Brazilian music, and straight-ahead jazz. Each composition has a story of the people or places that he is fond of.
The title track opener is appropriately swinging and bristling with energy. “Braeburn” begins more contemplatively with pianist Bryant before blossoming into a joyful melodic piece featuring his dad Steve on trombone before he launches into his own spirited solo following by Steve Wilson’s alto. “Braeburn” is named for his elementary school where he first discovered the joy of music. “May This Be Love” is Tony’s cover of Jimi Hendrix, which he claims is the reason he plays guitar, playing Hendrix almost exclusively the first four years that he was learning the instrument. Tony admires Hendrix’s vocals which Hendrix was very self-conscious about. Tony’s playing is what he feels an ode to the inherent beauty in Hendrix’s voice and is rendered as a ballad that also features delicate piano from Bryant.
“Night Rides” is another swinging piece, inspired by late night bicycle rides with his high school friend while “Orange Feathers” is a lovely ode to his girlfriend with the surname Robin. The lyrics and vocals are courtesy of Alina Engibaryan. Steve Wilson’s flute leads into “Sinha,” a Brazilian composition by Chico Burarque. The esoterically titled “Hypnagogia” is the term that refers to that mental state between wakefulness and sleep that can bring a range of thought from the lucid to the hallucinogenic. Tony recreates his version of that phase of consciousness here. It may have his most remarkable guitar playing on the album as his melodies and counters make it sound like multiple guitars. “Con Alma (“With Soul”) is a jazz standard, one his dad, Steve, ahs played with the Dizzy Gillespie All-Stars for years. So, Steve naturally takes the spotlight.
“El Gran Birane” also takes on a Brazilian quality with affectionate strumming and chord structure before building into shimmering piano runs from Bryant, a lyrical bass spot from Douglas and a soaring guitar from Tony, who is paying tribute joyously to one of his best friends. “Lake Sebago,” named after the place in Maine where he retreated to for secluded, relaxed getaways, is the other vocal and lyrical contribution from Engibaryan, another lovely tune with some complex rhythm patterns delivered by Tony, Bryant, and drummer Kim mid piece. “Tua Imagen” closes, another Brazilian tune, this time rendered solo, bordering on classical.
Tony Davis’ debut is a nice combination of creative compositions and interpretations – wide ranging, straight ahead, steadily swinging, and refreshingly melodic enough for an enjoyable listen. His remarkable talent belies his youthful stature.
- Jim Hynes