Davis and Dow
Multi award winning jazz duo Davis and Dow have chemistry. Soul mates that are two strong halves of one BIG sound. Davis and Dow tackle jazz and pop standards with a daring sense of abandon. Their style is deeply rooted in the classic jazz tradition but with a playfulness that keeps the music fresh and fun. Their arrangements are unique and inventive, always seeking a new approach to everything they do.
Recognized as one of the finest and most versatile jazz singers of her generation, Julie Davis is everything from scat-singer to balladeer. She grew up listening to the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and others on her parent's extensive vinyl collection. Singing jazz came naturally to Julie from a young age. “A confident singer with a compelling stage presence who possesses a wry kittenish voice with claws.” “She is a stylist that seeks an original twist on everything she performs; a risk-taker who’s scatting suggests she learned in her bassinet”. Now she feels it is her turn to expose newer generations to a young American art form called jazz.
Kelly Dow is a world-class guitarist who’s primary influences are Joe Pass, Jimmy Bruno, Django Reinhardt and the modern day European gypsy jazz virtuosos. He blends Be-Bop, Blues, Flamenco and Classical styles to create a strong individual sound delivered with sensitivity, power, and creativity. “Simply orchestral in support" “Swinging” “Fat” “Multi-hued” and “Unexpected” are a few words that critics have used to describe his performance.
They’ve toured Japan, London, and New York, composed and performed original music for the TV show FoodNation with Bobby Flay, and produced Great Jazz Divas: a multimedia show that celebrates women, music, and history. Their CD Naked won Best Jazz Album-Florida Music Awards, and was featured in JazzTimes Magazines' year in review issue. D&D were voted Best Jazz Artists-New Times Magazine and Julie Davis was voted Best Jazz Vocalist-City Link Magazine. Recent performances include the A concert for the Gold Coast Jazz Society at the Broward Center for Performing Arts, a Penn State University tour, and they were awarded a juried showcase at the prestigious Performing Arts Exchange in Louisville, KY. For the third consecutive time, Davis and Dow were awarded a two year grant by the Florida Cultural Arts Division to perform in underserved communities.
“Davis and Dow are the real thing; exciting to hear and watch”. Loverly, their latest CD, which features Federico Britos on violin with a full ensemble, celebrates their love for gypsy jazz. The cd has been played all over the world including the Sirius Satellite jazz station and has won high critical praise.
Interview with a Duo
Julie Davis and Kelly Dow sit down for a talk about how they met, what they've been up to, and what's next.
How did you two meet? Kelly: Julie placed an ad in a local music rag stating, "Singer, into Ella and Sarah, looking for established musicians to form a band." I was doing stints on cruise ships after college and had decided to take a break from that and stay in Florida for a while. Julie's was the only jazz ad in between a bunch all putting together "original heavy metal bands." I called her, and because we are both from the southwest, we immediately bonded. We met up at a local place that was supposed to have a jam session that night, but it was a holiday so hardly anyone showed up except for an inebriated piano player. We asked to sit in, he obliged, and from the moment we first heard each other we knew we were musical kindred spirits.
Where did you learn to play and sing?
Julie: I learned to sing naturally. I was in church choir and school choir, and always loved to harmonize. Our house was filled with music--my parents always had a jazz or swing record on instead of TV. I grew up listening to all the jazz greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner. There was an Ella record, I still have it. It's called Ella Fitzgerald Live at Newport. There was this one song on it called "Lemon Drop," one of those Ella Fitzgerald tour de force scat songs. I used to listen to it over and over again, imitating her phrase by phrase until I could do the whole song by myself a cappella. I actually won a talent competition singing that song in the midst of all these other people singing and playing rock. It was pretty cool. But that started it for me. That's how I learned to sing--by listening to all the instruments and imitating them.
Kelly: I always loved the guitar, so I started lessons at the local music store from a classical guitar teacher. When he left there were no other guitar teachers, so I ended up taking banjo lessons for a short time. I played in local bands in high school, mainly rock, blues and a little country. Then I attended a guitar conservatory in San Antonio, Texas, headed by Jackie King and Herb Ellis. The program covered all styles but the primary emphasis was on jazz. That's where I was introduced to jazz guitar. After that I went to the University of North Texas and majored in music--jazz studies. They have an awesome jazz program. It really kicked my butt. They had such great players there! And not just guitar players--the horn players and percussionists were all world class. From the students to the teachers to the artists that would visit and lecture, it was a great experience.
Why Jazz? Julie: Jazz is a misnomer for so many things. To me, jazz means freedom of expression.
Kelly: I see jazz as the Olympics of music genres. You are constantly improvising, creating new music on the spot. To perform this right you have be technically proficient on your instrument, have a good knowledge of theory and harmony, and most important you have to have a good ear and be able to infuse feeling into the music. So jazz is challenging, creative and fun.
Who are your influences? Julie: This is a hard one to answer because when I first started singing, I mainly listened to singers, like Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, to learn how to sing. But as I have gotten older, I needed to develop my own style and sound. So I really enjoy listening to horn players and piano players, like Oscar Peterson or Eddie Lockjaw Davis (no relation), for ideas. I'm influenced by everything: Kurt Elling for his poetry and profoundness, and Duke Ellington for his arranging. I try to learn something from anyone who has a special gift.
Kelly: I feel the same as Julie, and there are definitely different phases. The usual suspects are there, like Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, and Johnny Smith. Right now I'm listening to many of the Gypsy Jazz virtuosos like Jimmy Rosenberg, Stochelo Rosenberg and Angelo Debarre. On the more modern side of jazz guitar I like Jimmy Bruno, George Benson and Pat Martino. The players who can do both are my biggest inspiration--artists like Biréli Lagrène and Andreas Öberg.
Who are some of the musicians that you have enjoyed performing with?
Dr. Lonnie Smith, Ira Sullivan, Scott Hamilton, Jesse Jones Jr., Eddie Higgins, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ken Peplowski, and Arron Weinstein-and more recently, Federico Britos and Dave Hubbard, who are both featured on our new CD, Loverly.
Who would you like to play/sing with? Kelly: Biréli Lagrène, Frank Vignola, Charlie Haden, Howard Alden, John Pizzerelli, Berelli, and all the people I listed as influences that are still around
Julie: Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Elling, Bobby McFerrin
Where has music taken you? Julie: From very small towns in the Midwest to Europe, Japan and New York.
Any major accomplishments you are proud of?
Kelly: The new CD, Loverly. Developing and producing our show Great Jazz Divas. Our previous CD, Naked. Being awarded a two year grant on the Florida Touring Roster, which allows us to bring music and education to underserved communities. Appearing and having our original music featured on Food Nation with Bobby Flay. Really, we are proud of being able to make a living doing what we love, ever since we have been together.
What is the Great Jazz Divas Show?
Kelly: This is a show we put together as a loving tribute to the great female jazz singers of the past, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday. It is mainly the duo in concert performing musical selections in the spirit of these great vocalists. We also have a multi-media component to the show, with beautiful photographs of the singers projected on the stage. We also play interview sound-bites of either the singers themselves or famous musicians and writers discussing their styles and lives. There are so many people doing impersonation tribute shows today, but this isn't anything like that. We are being ourselves, and Julie is not trying to sound exactly like they sounded--that's impossible to do, anyway. We are paying respect, appreciation and homage to their lives and music. Julie may throw in a turn of a phrase here and there as a wink to their influence once in awhile, but we aren't doing an impersonation show at all.
Julie: We've been doing the show for ten years now. That has allowed us to play small and large stages all over the US. We always get a tremendous response. Middle school students who have never heard of these artists before say, "Wow, I never thought I'd like jazz, but I like what you do." And then we have had some people come up and say, "I remember seeing Ella in a small club in New York." It feels great to love what you do and see that kind of reaction.
What are you up to now?
Kelly: Promoting our new CD, Loverly!
Tell me more about your new CD, Loverly.
Julie: Well, it's been two years in the making. We wanted to record the music we were playing at the time, and about three years ago we really started digging the music of Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France. The swing is so infectious, and people were really responding to our interpretations of the music. Since I sing and Django recorded with only a very few singers, we thought it would bring a new dimension to the music. Kind of like if Ella or Billie were to sing with Django. Not all the tunes on the CD reflect the Hot Club sound; we have two duo songs where Kelly plays his seven-string guitar and some group cuts, one of which features Dave Hubbard on sax. We also throw in an original. It was such an honor to present jazz violinist Federico Britos on three cuts. He is an amazing musician. We had such a joyous time making the CD.
Julie and Kelly
interview each other
Kelly interviews Julie
What is "scat" singing?
Nonsensical phrases used in music instead of words. Like "boo beyou do bod doh doo de." The voice is taking the role of an instrument. Like a horn. A lot of people don’t get it because they were never exposed to it before. There are a lot of BAD scat singers out there. And there are a lot of BAD-A** scat singers out there...Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald are two of the best.
I know you are influenced by instrumentalists as well as singers. How does an instrumental artist influence you compared to the way you are influenced by a singer, say like Ella Fitzgerald?
Ella used her voice like a horn; that's how she learned to sing. So she really does sound like a horn when she scats. Because I learned to sing by actively listening, I try to listen to only instrumentalists. They are not as easy to imitate as singers, so you have to try and develop your own interpretation of what you hear. I think the human voice is a lot easier to imitate when you are a singer, so I try not to listen to other singers because that is my nature--to imitate sounds.
How do you approach arranging?
When I hear a tune in my head I hear a whole orchestra playing. Sometimes I hear a quartet or big band or even a singing group. That is how I develop ideas for the duo. Sometimes I sing the horn part and Kelly is the whole rhythm section, or we are two horns soloing together. It's fun to use your imagination and come up with new ideas and sounds from unexpected places. To me, arranging is song writing. Especially in Jazz music.
Why is what you do important?
It's important to keep the art alive for future generations. Jazz music is America's art form. I feel lucky to be a part of that.
It seems it is always a struggle getting and building an audience for jazz music. What do you think can be done to cultivate new patrons and new jazz fans?
First, it has to start at home when children are very young. That's where it started for me. Then, you have the educational system. Music must be placed higher in our curriculum. These kids are the people who will buy tickets to concerts and attend cultural events in the future. If we don't nurture our art form it will die with us, and I don't want to see that happen. I think all artists must create an educational component to their art, whether it be painting or dance or music. There is so much more that we can do, but I think this is a great start.
Thanks, Baby; I love singing with you.
Julie interviews Kelly
What do you do to develop yourself as a guitar player?
Well, it's the same as the answer to that famous question, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" Practice, practice, practice. It is actually something I love to do. One key is even if you are playing a scale, always play musically, not mechanically. Actively listening to all types of music is another very important daily regimen. I love all aspects of guitar. It is my career and hobby rolled up in one. I like to dabble in classical, flamenco, and Chet Atkins style as well as jazz.
Is there a type of jazz you enjoy playing the most?
Right now, the gypsy jazz style is something I am really into. This is in the style of Django Reinhardt. It always puts a smile on people's faces and gets their toes tapping. It requires not only chops, but also much heart and feeling.
What kinds of guitars do you a) own, and b) want?
For years my main guitar was a Gibson ES-347, which is a great guitar. I also own two classical models and a Gibson SG. To get the sound of Gypsy Jazz you have to have a special acoustic guitar, modeled on the 1930's Selmer guitar that Django played. So for that, I have a Dell'Arte Jimmy Rosenberg model. This is an unbelievable sounding acoustic instrument. I also have an Eastman Uptown seven-string arch top. The seventh string really helps give our duo a nice, full sound. The Eastman is another gem of an instrument. If I hit the lottery it would be cool to own a Gibson Super 400 that Wes Montgomery played, or something crazy like that.
How important is improvisation?
Improvisation is very important. This is at the heart of every jazz performance. I think keeping it simple, and making sure the music you play feels good and is in the pocket, is key. You want to tell a story when you solo. Improvising is spontaneous composing, so you want to be melodic and lyrical. That's the idea, anyway. You don't want to cram everything you know into every solo--although sometimes we can't help ourselves!
What do you believe to be your purpose on Earth?
To play good music with my musical and life soul mate (that's you, Julie) and my friends, for people who appreciate it. Hopefully, to introduce this wonderful art to people who, if it hadn't been for us, might have missed out on it. To live a simple life, and do what I can to protect the environment. An artist's role is mostly unappreciated in today's society. It is a very important role, though.