A New Orleans tinged jazz trumpeter and vocalist inevitably draws to mind Louis Armstrong. Fair enough, but in terms of Jeremy Davenport’s style and swagger, you should think more along the lines of Chet Baker, or better yet early Harry Connick, Jr. This comparison, reductive as it is, can hardly be avoided. Davenport played in Connick’s big band on four tours. Track 4: "I Could Write A Book" is classic Rodgers & Hart, but casual jazz fans remember it from Connick’s sublime When Harry Met Sally soundtrack. Both studied at the Manhattan School of Music, and both studied in New Orleans under godfather Ellis Marsalis.
But the Connick comparison ends where the trumpet begins. Davenport possesses a crisp brass attack with extraordinary range and expression. Like Miles Davis before him, Davenport’s private lessons with first chair trumpet of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Joseph Gustat and Susan Slaughter, respectively) ensured excellent technique from a young age. After many prestigious solo and side projects, Davenport returns to his St. Louis roots for Live at the Bistro. Originally broadcast on NPR’s JazzSet, the sessions are now available on CD from AAM Recordings.
Accompanying Davenport are Thaddeus Richard on piano (Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Will Porter, Henri Smith, Wings), David Pulphus on bass (original member of all-star Los Hombres Calientes), and Troy Davis on drums (Terrence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Toots Thielmans, Marvin Gaye, John Pattitucci).
When it comes to jazz, the term "Live" is often assumed. Practically all historical jazz recordings were spontaneous one-takes, but nowadays that’s rare. The ease and experimental qualities of modern technology have led to abuses. Artificial production isn’t always evil, but the old-fashioned interplay between Davenport and his three virtuosos in the same room at the same time is undeniably hot. Furthermore, a live recording allows for more song-and-dance, call-and-response, and hometown shout-outs. They’re having fun, and so will you. Here’s hoping for Live at the Bistro v.2, 3, 4....
A legendary crooner in the making, Davenport is deeply committed to what he calls "the storytelling element of the song.... standards of past ages". The New Orleans Times Picayune declared his music "light on it’s feet and easy to take in". Live at the Bistro is a great record by a great artist, you’ll recommend this one even to those friends who don’t love jazz.
- David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.