Aqua Viva
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Aqua Viva


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"Q and A with David Pray of Aqua Viva"

Currents Article: Q and A with David Pray of Aqua Viva

Q&A with David Pray of Aqua Viva

-->-->By John Staton,
Currents Editor

Since moving to Wilmington in 2002, bassist, guitarist and songwriter David Pray has been something of a unique musical presence, playing a poppy, melodic brand of jazz that might not be overly familiar to either purists or casual listeners, but one that landed him plenty of gigs and respect from local musicians looking to get their chops around something different.

Previously with the David Pray Trio, Pray has taken his music in a new direction, keeping the poppy melodies but adding electronic elements and vocals to what was previously a purely instrumental endeavor. A new direction deserves a new name, and Pray has been playing with Aqua Viva for the past few months.

On Friday, Pray will bring Aqua Viva - featuring Kevin Kolb on keyboards, Leroy Harper (formerly of the James Brown Band) and Rich Zimmerman on sax, Will Chacon on percussion, Jennifer Ford on vocals and Pray on bass and guitar - to the Cameron Art Museum for a CD release show that will feature projected art by local artists and dance performances by the Forward Motion dance troupe and the Glory Academy of Fine Arts.

I caught up with Pray at Folk's Cafe (the original, Princess Street location) for a quick chat.

Looks like you've been growing your hair out.

Well, I grew it out about six months ago. I'm a musician, an artist, I want to have a look that's really cool. So I went to see a friend of mine who's got his own salon and I was like, "I'm not really sure what I want," we were looking through magazines. And then he cut it all off. I'm like, "It's supposed to be shaggy!" So now it's grown out yet again.

So, this is going to be a pretty big event on Friday.

It's something I've been wanting to do for a while. When I was in college, there were a group of clothing designers, models, actors, and performance artists I hung with. We'd throw collaborative events. If one of the fashion designers was having a fashion show, we'd have live music - or at art openings or performance art pieces. And I really haven't done anything like that since then I posted a bulletin on the forum (at saying, hey, we're doing this concert and we're looking for artists to submit their work for projection on the screen behind us. That's how that started.

When bands perform to a backdrop, whether it's a movie or an image or whatever, do you feel like that enhances the music in some way? Or does it just make for a cool environment?

That's an interesting question. To be honest, I think it has something to do with our visual overload. We're stimulated so much now. You know, you watch a movie now and every two seconds there's a cut. We're so stimulated by imagery that when you go to a concert now, it's like you can't just go to a concert, and because Aqua Viva is mostly instrumental music I felt like we needed something extra to make the show even more engaging.

Where did the songs on the new CD come from?

Almost in a mystical sense, I feel like some of these songs had to be written, like they had to be born. So, there are some elements of that, and there are some songs that are totally commercially driven. Like The Long Road Home, was written to be a simple, catchy pop tune with jazzy elements … I've always loved pop music. When I was in high school, I would call up the radio station and request Bob Dylan and Abba.

In your notes about the album, you mentioned Miles Davis and his ability to incorporate new sounds into jazz. Was he an inspiration for the direction you're going in?

One thing I really enjoyed doing when I started getting serious about music was reading biographies of musicians. You can really learn a lot. When I read Miles' biography, one of the things that intrigued me was his awareness of the popular market and obviously capitalized on that for his career (by adding popular sounds to jazz), which I thought was brilliant. And so I thought in introducing the big debut of Aqua Viva, it's really in that spirit that we're doing this. It's taking what we've done with the David Pray Trio to a more modern sound by adding the electronica element.

John Staton

- Currents - Wilmington Star News

"Introducing Chill Music: Aqua Viva transpose worldly compositions"

Introducing Chill Music:
Aqua Viva transpose worldly compositions


David Pray was born in San Francisco and is a currently a Wilmington resident, but most of his life was spent traveling the world—he spent his formative years in Tokyo, explored India, The Soviet Union and various regions around Europe. While doing so, he learned about each culture and creatively digested it the only way he knew how: through music.

Today Pray has immersed himself into Aqua Viva, a "chill band," he described last week during our interview. Having only played together for about a year, the band is working on making a huge impression on the art world, not just through music but through various mediums as well.

Many people in Wilmington may be baffled by the words "chill music." What is it, exactly? Just a bunch of surfers hanging out, listening to reggae and smoking joints? Actually, it's own unique genre, and as Pray explains, "It really kind of started off in Europe, where they were a mixing jazz hooks with world music and electronic beats." On Aqua Viva's first full-length album, headed by Pray and sultry vocalist Jennifer Ford, the band demonstrate the genre can only be understood when heard.
Raised by a Cuban mother and a world-traveling father, Pray got a taste for culture and music at a young age when he was playing air guitar at 5. By 15 he started playing in bands from Top 40 rock groups to jazz to classical performances and was influenced heavily by David Bowie's theatrical antics.

Much like the sound and visionary of Bowie, alongside influences such as Kraftwork, Aqua Viva's upcoming live show at the Cameron Art Museum will definitely be an unusual exhibition. "It's more like an art event, and so that's where I want to distinguish it and make it a little bit more special. I'm so excited; we've got two dance companies performing with us," Pray said, "and I think we've got about six or seven artists displaying their art work. There's going to be elements of a regular concert, like lighting, people taking solos and some singing, some instrumentals."

Aqua Viva also showcases the talents of keyboardist Kevin Kolb, James Brown's former saxophone player Leroy Harper Jr. and Rich Zimmerman on saxophone. Another exciting addition to the band is East African drummer Cheick Sissoko. Pray said while he's "excited about everyone's contribution. . .the fact that we have Cheik coming with us, you know to add that African flavor, is going to be really cool."

Aqua Viva, whose members vary from show to show, are also dedicated to promoting individuality, human relationships and women's empowerment through their lyrics. "I wrote all the lyrics accept for one song," Pray said of his songwriting efforts. "So often people find their self-worth in a relationship, and so when a relationship ends, their self-worth just goes down the toilet, and that's really not the case. You are independent of what a guy or a girl thinks of you."

Pray also emphasizes the strain that women feel to stay thin in a society so based on looks and believes that through their live show, Aqua Viva can illustrate the beauty in all women. The show will incorporate dancers from companies Forward Motion and Glory Academy. "The dancers are all women—especially in the western culture women feel like they have to look a certain way. You know they go get nose jobs and all that kind of stuff, and it's like their whole self-image is wrapped up in exterior qualities rather than interior qualities. I really want to celebrate, too."

Pray says to enjoy the multi-media event in its entirety, it's definitely important to show up early. Fine Arts photography Matthew Dols, textile/batik artist Kristen Gibson, graphic designer Todd Dengler, painters David Hervey, Natali Beightley and James Davis "will all be contributing high-resolution photos of their work to be projected onto the Cameron Art Museum's 22-foot screen as backdrops for Aqua Viva."

The upcoming show is a unique chance to hear a new genre of music, and as Pray puts it: "The consensus seems to be that it's really different than anything [anyone's] ever heard. It's playful, it's fun; people enjoy it."

To be a part of a show of a different undertaking, be at the Cameron Art Museum on September 14th at 7pm.
- Encore Publications

"Focus On The Coast Interview"

Focus on the Coast June 07 Interview

By William "Paco" Strickland

Multi-instrumentalist David Pray has been around the world and back – a few times. The Cape Fear Coast is currently reaping the benefits of his world travels through his musical and artistic creations. He writes and arranges all the material in the David Pray Trio and his group Aqua Viva as well as being a featured artist and sales rep for the Bose Corporation. Bose is known for its superior sound systems throughout the world. This gig alone would be enough to fill most people's dance card, but it's only a small portion on Pray's plate.
Pray's new jazz/pop combo Aqua Viva features some of Wilmington's best-known veteran players such as Roy Harper (who played sax with the late great 'Godfather of Soul,' James Brown before he passed on), premier keyboard man, Kevin Kolb, as well as David Tyson on trumpet and guitar. On percussion, Pray rounds out the rhythm section with Troy Pierce and Will Chacon. Indeed these players by themselves can manage to draw a packed house.Pray's orchestration of these fine players should not be underestimated. We highly suggest taking in a performance at one of the many local venues they perform at.

As fate would have it David's father was in deep as a tourist official, affording Pray a life close to the water in practically every exotic port-of-call on this planet! Pray developed a keen ear to the lush musical vegetation in these foreign and distant lands. It isn't any wonder why the coast was drawn to Pray's artistry. "The local music scene embraced me when I first arrived in town…it meant a lot to me," Pray said. "The scene in LA is cut-throat, two-faced, and unpleasant. How refreshing it was to come to Wilmington and find a sense of camaraderie. While in college in Santa Barbara, California, the creative people did so many things together. Artists, fashion designers, photographers, musicians, performance artists, and models would all hang out together and put on events. I would like to see more of that here. Matt Dols of and I have discussed similar projects. Matt's efforts are exciting because networking is tantamount for the success of the arts in any city."

It's also refreshing to hear a musician extol the virtues of formal study. Pray says training is most beneficial. "By all means, training is important and opens the doors of credibility. I want to be a student until the day I die. It's important to open your ears to new ideas and techniques. Picasso was formally trained. Training doesn't hinder, stubbornness does." A more fitting pronouncement from our world traveling musician would be hard to equal.

To learn more about David Pray and to find out where he's playing next, log on to

- Focus On The Coast

"9/14 concert review"

By Taylor Johnson - Jazz Notes/Cape Fear Jazz Society

"I have just finished one of the most exciting weekends of listening to jazz since I came to Wilmington 4 years ago. It began with an evening at the Cameron Art Museum that filled all the senses. I arrived at the museum and was greeted with wonderful aromas coming from the "Sweet and Savory Cafe'" where people were laughing and enjoying a delicious dinner. I got a glass of wine and stood at the head of the line at the door of the auditorium where David Pray and "Aqua Viva" were setting up.

"In just a few minutes the doors opened and very shortly we were engulfed with a mixture of bright visual images of local artwork, beautiful dancers expressing emotions that captured the audience, and sounds so vibrant that almost every toe in the "Standing Room Only" crowd was tapping. There was so much beauty and electricity that I found my eyes circling from the artwork to the dancers to the musicians all evening. Standing ovations (two for the last two numbers) closed the evening and I didn't want it to end." - Jazz Notes - Cape Fear Jazz Society

"Jazz Across The World"

By Melissa Purtis

What would get if you crossed a guy that has travelled the globe. showcasing extreme musical talent, incorporate a saxophone, guitar, bass, and drum set?

Aqua Viva.

If you haven't been lucky enough to hear them before, now's your chance. David began traveling the world at the ageof one--yes,
he could barely walk. Yet, years later, after having mastered his motor skills-to the point of becoming quite the musical virtuoso--he has traveled from Japan to Hawaii and back again
creating a style of music that echoes the sounds and cultures he has witnessed around the world. He has discovered various ethnic
instruments with which he has used to produce his mix of jazz. Funk and pop-a sound that
tantalizes the ears of many a music lovers.

It was on one of David's tripsback to the states that he realized the bayou rock of Credence Clearwater Revival. Instantly. David was hooked on the sound of electric guitars. The days of the high school garage band came and went, leaving him with influences that ranged from the Police's Andy Summers on guitar to the electronic music of Tangerine Dream and
Kitaro, which marked his inspiration for writing. These motivations have helped David and his band create music that make up "simple,
catchy melodies." as denoted from the musician himself. He also likes to create sounds with "a good groove."

You may be asking yourself what separates the Aqua Viva's jazz music from any other band. The answer lies in the fact that these
guys don't describe their music as jazz. In fact, if David had to pick one word to describe the band's tunes. he says it'd be "eclectic." As
he explains. "It certainly falls in the jazz category if that's what you're looking for-or maybe [it's] jazz/world/groove."

Having packed out venues from museums, to clubs to churches, to jam sessions in his own living room, he has met a lot of great musicians who have introduced him to new ideas, including local acts. In fact, many Wilmington musicians have sat in with the band at one time or another, and David has been continually moved by the creativity of our locals in music and the arts.

Ideally, however, David's dreams lie in the notion of performing with the best-Sting. "He's got a cool factor of 10; excellent songwriter, intelligent, stylish," shared David.
"David Shartman, a local sax player, said that my music is in the same solarsystem as Sting's, but we're on different planets... l took it as a compliment."

Recently, David was given
the honor of being selected by the
Bose Corporation as the Featured
Band for their southern region.
The group's diverse performances
feature sax player Rich Zimmerman, and Cheick Sissoko on drums and percussion. David's alterations between keys, bass and
guitar will help bring you to the
beautiful lands that many of us will
never get the opportunity to experience.

"Playing live. I sometimes feel
like it's a train barreling down a
mountain and it's about to derail
at any moment ... most of the time
it's just beautiful and serene."

See for yourself what he's
speaking of by attending Percy's Jazz club from t 7-1Opm on March 4. If you can't catch Aqua Viva then, they'll be performing at the Front Street Brewery from 9pm-midnight on the 12th of March.
And coming up in April David is helping to organize a benefit for the tsunami relief. Have traveled to Indonesia and Sri Lanka many times in his life, the tragedy has hit close to home, and David is trying to help restore the beauty to these countries.
- Encore Publications


Debut CD out now!
Tracks and airplay:
1. Say You Love Me
2. Hers Three Cats - hear it on
3. Toro
4. Sayonara Slumber - hear it on
5. Fly
6. Cherish
7. Orange and Blue
8. Try
9. The Look of Love
10. Hello
11. Letters
12. The Long Road Home - hear it on and



Miles Davis, an icon of American music, had remained a vital artist throughout his career due to his ability to incorporate new, exciting sounds and styles in his jazz recordings. It is in this spirit that David Pray introduces Aqua Viva’s first studio CD release: Eleven original songs and one fresh arrangement of a beloved classic. There are instrumental as well vocal tracks by David and sultry young singer Jennifer Ford. European in flavor, the songs are diverse in style and influence; a reflection of Pray’s extensive world travels.

On Friday, September 14th at 7pm Aqua Viva will perform a CD release concert at the Cameron Art Museum. CD’s will be available for sale that night. Joining David and Jennifer are the musicians who performed on the recording: Kevin Kolb - keys, local sax legend Leroy Harper Jr., and Rich Zimmerman - sax. West African percussionist Cheick Sissoko will also perform.

Bryan Sandala of The Currents named David Pray one the top entertainers to ring in the 2007 New Year . He wrote, ”(David’s band is) well regarded for their singular brand of jazzy pop…”

And entertain they will…dance companies Forward Motion and Glory Academy of Fine Arts will perform original choreography during the concert. Fine art photographer Matthew Dols (, textile/batik artist Kristin Gibson, graphic designer Todd Dengler (Yonder Shore Studio - Aqua Viva logo and CD artwork), painters David Hervey, Natali Beightley and James Davis are contributing high resolution photos of the their work to be projected onto the Cameron Art Museum’s 22 foot screen as backdrops for Aqua Viva.

David states: “When I was in college in Santa Barbara, California artists from all disciplines would come together to put on events. I’m thrilled to find that spirit here in Wilmington. The CD release concert will be memorable and certainly a Fete Artistique.”