Devin Phillips and New Orleans Straight Ahead
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Devin Phillips and New Orleans Straight Ahead

Portland, Oregon, United States

Portland, Oregon, United States
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"An Ill Wind That Blew Some Good"

Legendary Jazz Age composer George once said: "Life is a lot like jazz. It's best when you improvise."

New Orleans musician Devin Phillips ... excel(s) at improvising, creatively enhancing the artistry of the music. Phillips pulls out all the stops on his tenor sax...

"Devin...has added vitality, verve and spice to the Portland jazz scene," says veteran Portland jazz artist Ron Steen. [He] graduated from the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a player in that city's jazz scene, and toured and recorded with artists as diverse as Lenny Kravitz, Los Hombres Calientes and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Steen is impressed with Phillips' great passion and excellent technique. "Devin has a huge, robust sound, like Sonny Rollins or Dexter Gordon," Steen says. "But what sets him apart is the amazing rhythmic complexity of his playing."

....A part of the Portland Jazz Festival, Phillips says that opening the festival with "Amazing Grace", talking with McCoy Tyner and being asked to stand in for one of Eddie Palmieri's frontline players were high points for him. - Portland Tribune, April 4, 2006


"Life Before, During and After Katrina: A Conversation with Transplanted New Orlean Musician Devin Phillips"

Describing Devin Phillips as a "gifted saxophonist", Jerry Jazz interviews Devin. The following are some interview excerpts.

Devin On His Roots:

Jazz can be a lot of different things, you know? It can be music that is played at somebody's birthday party, or even at a funeral. There is always some form of jazz that is being played in New Orleans, and it seems as if everybody has a cousin or uncle who plays it. In that sense, everybody who grows up in New Orleans grows up with jazz. It is so much a part of the culture that you can't see it -- you may not even recognize it.


On the Brass Bands:

About playing in a marching band, besides being taught at an arts conservatory, a lot of my training came from playing in brass bands, and that is a big part of the New Orleans region... no matter what era you are from, playing in a brass band is a very important part of being a horn player from New Orleans. It is a famous tradition, and every important horn player has done it -- beginning with Danny Barker. Even though I never met him, I feel like I am a part of this tradition. So the brass band is where I come from, and it is where I learned how to play jazz.


Devin Defines His Music:

I play music in the tradition of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and while I may change their music, the change is going to come from within that tradition -- I will call upon the same drive they did to grow the music. That is what I want to do right now, and I want to make jazz accessible for young people. I want jazz to not only sound good, but I want it to look cool as well. I want it to be attractive, sexy, and I want kids to like it. I want five-year-olds to look at me and say they want to be like me when they grow up. I even want middle school kids with attitudes to like it too. Nobody seems to be doing that now, and maybe I won't end up being the "Usher of Jazz," but I would damn sure like to try. That is the reason I came to Portland -- to play my horn. I wouldn't even be here if not for that. Playing my horn is the reason I am alive, and it is scary for me to think about doing something else.

- Jerry Jazz Musician, September 2006


"Portland Jazz Festival Hits High Notes with Impressive Variety"

When the lights dimmed for the opening concert of the 2006 Portland Jazz Festival...a solitary figure stepped onstage. It's wasn't the show's headliner, the piano titan McCoy Tyner. The tall slender profile, long dreadlocks and tenor saxophone gave him away as Devin Phillips, a talented and earnest musician from New Orleans who relocated here after Hurricane Katrina.

He blew his horn in the darkness, and the notes, as gentle yet firm as a quiet resolution, expressively embellished "Amazing Grace." - The Sunday Oregonia, Feb. 26, 2006


"MUSIC: Devin Phillips & New Orleans Straight Ahead"

Since his arrival in Portland post-Katrina, New Orleans saxophonist Devin Phillips has ratcheted up the jazz-energy level in these parts.

Along with his shoot-from-the-hip, Sonny Rollins/Joe Henderson-like urgency, Phillips swings hard and plays it out-in-the-alley like it matters.

His new CD "Wade in the Water" perfectly showcases his suave dynamics of musicality, showmanship and swagger - as rooted in the tradition of jazz's cradle as it is caged in frenzied, jazz modernity. - Willamette Week, Dec. 13, 2006


"KMHD-FM Jazz Radio:"

DJ/Interviewer Matt Warford. Excerpts

M: You have more than one style on jazz on this CD.

D: What I tried to do for this, it's a document what I've done with my life, a collection of all my influences, how jazz affected me.

M: What about the title cut "Water in the Water"?
D: The title has a special meaning to me, even before the hurricane happened. But through our [New Orleans Straight Ahead] life experiences, it took on something else. It's a Negro spiritual, that's been done in many ways and styles and our style has to do with our experiences. Also, this is the first song I left up to band to their expressions.

M: Tell us about the opening track "Cape Verde".
D: Cape Verde is an island off West Africa. I tried to figure out name of this introduction to the album. I thought this was appropriate because Cape Verde is where hurricanes originate and they make it all way to the Gulf of Mexico from Africa.

M: "Slow Blues" is a traditional number. Sidney Bechet?
D: I was hesitant at first to put New Orleans music on my album because, I guess, I take for it for granted. But I realized I'm grateful, I'm proud and I wear it like a badge on my shirt. Cause I do come from a lineage of what's made music what it is now. And he's [Bechet] one of my heroes. With "Slow Blues", we tried to show an evolution of the blues., starting from Jelly Roll Morton to Sidney Bechet to music today.


- KMHD - FM 89.1


"Devin Phillips - Portland Via New Orleans"

There is a harmonic rumbling emanating from Portland, Oregon and if you listen quite closely you might hear the sweet sound of a sax floating through the air. Devin Phillips is making quite a splash on the Portland music scene and his road to P-town is an epic tale of devastation and rebirth. Almost as amazing as is his musical chops on his tenor and soprano saxophone, is the tumultuous path that led him here.

Devin Phillips and New Orleans Straight Ahead is more of a classic sit down jazz quartet that you would expect to see in a tiny smoky bar in the 1950's in New York City.

Phillips is joined by Eric Gruber on the stand-up bass, Andrew Oliver who plays classic piano and Mark DiFlorio on drums. This is bare-bones jazz that is beautiful in its simplicity. This is terrific improvisation and Phillips is leading the charge. - Glidemagazine.com, July 10, 2006


Discography

Devn Phillips: Wade in the Water

Photos

Bio

Born and reared in New Orleans, the cradle of jazz, and an evacuee from Hurricane Katrina relocated in Portland, Oregon, Devin Phillips' intense affair with the saxophone began at the age of eight. At 14, he was accepted into the prestigious New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, whose alumni include Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and Nicholas Payton. There, trained in music theory and multi-styles composition, he graduated in 2000 with top honors.

Heading up the prestigious KMHD Jazz Radio Concert at the 2007 Portland Jazz Festival, Phillips has also performed, toured and recorded with top jazz artists, such as Wynton Marsalis, Eddie Palmieri, The Headhunters, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Lenny Kravitz, and Los Hombres Caliente (with whom he recorded two award-winning albums). His reputation as a sax man with intricate and rhythmically innovative sounds made him a popular feature at jazz festivals: France's Jazz de Vien Festival; Tokyo's JVC Jazz Festival; Itanbul's The Ruins; Spain's Barcelona Jazz Festival; the Netherlands' North Sea Jazz and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

In 2005, Phillips formed New Orleans Straight Ahead. But in August, Hurricane Katrina muted the music. With all gone, save his sax, and his family scattered throughout the U.S., Phillips evacuated to Portland and reformed New Orleans Straight Ahead with other musician evacuees. His signature sound has not only been featured on radio specials and Northwest festivals, but also in newspaper and magazine articles, as well as online articles. Phillips' debut album "Devin Phillips: Wade in the Water" is now out and available on cdbaby.com. Check out this enhanced CD featuring a cool video!