R&B and jazz saxophonist David Davis wooed the crowds at Russell House last Sunday, Jan. 31 at an event called Sax in the City, accompanied by the stunning vocals of Grammy Award-winning singer-slash-songwriter Charmagne Tripp. The warm, cozy setting of the 19th-century Greek revival mansion made for a living room effect, setting the stage for Davis and his band. They performed on the floor without a raised surface, and Davis opened by addressing his audience as though they were old friends, sparking relaxed, conversational responses.
After introducing his band, Davis swept into some of the hits from his albums and then played popular pieces by worldwide artists, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and the Fugees. Making his way around the room, he made sure to get up close and personal with everyone—even my canine companion experienced a face-to-face encounter with the sax.
But hits weren’t all Davis had to offer. He lived up to his reputation as the “musician’s musician,” surprising the audience with his skills on an electric wind instrument that resembled a giant flute and produced a vibrant mix of synthesized sound. The electric wind instrument, made of a wind controller and a synthesizer, gave Davis the ability to simultaneously play the melody and sing a synthesised vocal line.
Davis recalled the difficulty he encountered when first learning how to use the unusual gadget. “I thought it was gonna be like sax,” he said, “but when I tried it first I couldn’t figure it out.” He explained how, feeling disheartened, he hid it away for a long time, until one day when he found himself sitting in a hotel room with nothing to do and, out of pure boredom, decided to try it again. “I realized that I had to take it as its own instrument and stop comparing it to the sax,” he remembered. “And that’s when I cracked it.” He then abandoned the electric wind instrument and fascinated audience members with a spur of the moment composition.
Finally, Davis introduced Tripp, whose sensuous voice made for a calming allure. Her performance ended, however, in exhilaration, as her stunning rendition of Etta James’s “At Last” won her a standing ovation. Tripp remained onstage for some time, singing hits by artists like Janet Jackson and Stevie Wonder, as well as some tracks she and Davis had recorded for Davis’ most recent album.
The show finally came to a close with Davis returning to his sax and encouraging audience members to purchase his albums on the way out. I would imagine he did pretty well in sales given the raves from audience members on their way out.
Davis and his unique music are certainly something that can be enjoyed by all, whether you’re a jazz enthusiast or not, and Sax in the City certainly made for a satisfying Sunday afternoon.