Monday, August 17, 2009

Kate Davis: True to the Music

Young Kate Davis really means it when she sings, “I’m old-fashioned.”

The 19-year-old Portland jazz vocalist and bass player performed for an “old-fashioned” audience at Washington Park last Thursday evening.

I was fortunate enough to be at the free concert with friends, kettle corn and a bottle of merlot. My colleagues could have been Kate’s parents. She’d have to call me “gramps.”

She’s made our music hers and, on this special night, she was lovingly giving it back to us.

Accompanied by Portland jazz stalwarts, drummer Ron Steen and pianist Tom Grant, Davis stuck to the standards she clearly loves. She was joined along the way by vocalist Rebecca Kilgore.

Steen, Grant and Kilgore have all played important roles in snatching Davis out of time and putting her in synch with music that goes back before hip-hop and rock.

Davis says her parents, who gave her a start with a violin, also imparted their love of jazz. She switched to upright bass because singing and playing violin don’t mix.

As a singer, Davis' strength is in her bending, sliding vocal interpretations of the old tunes. Her changes are fresh and innovative, winningly right and respectful of the music.

Her bass playing is simply superb — deep, rich and lyrical.

So here under pewter Portland skies was this recent West Linn High School graduate. As I write she's moved on to New York City, jazz central, and the Manhattan School of Music. Whatever jazz's future is, Kate Davis promises to be an important part of it.

On this farewell night in the park, how moving it was to see and hear this young musician so enthralled and enthusiastic as she celebrated a mid-Twentieth Century play list: “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ but the Blues,” “Little Girl Blue,” “Lush Life,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and, of course, “I’m Old-Fashioned.”

You can hear and see Kate HERE.

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