Mary Bridget Davies Group
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Mary Bridget Davies Group

Band Blues R&B


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"Beyond the Blues"

Beyond the Blues
Soul, jazz, and funk get a workout when Mary Bridget Davies takes the stage.
By D.X. Ferris (

Published: Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The jazz-blues club 2527 is the kind of place that would feel completely unrealistic in a sitcom. At the small candlelit bar on the border of Tremont and Ohio City, everybody knows everybody else, and patrons wave at new arrivals from the other side of the room, greeting them by name. The Mary Bridget Davies Group is playing tonight, and the band has brought out a crowd ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, with a couple of tattoo sleeves visible amid the polo shirts, cocktail dresses, and sweaters.

In one corner, a picture of Ella Fitzgerald hangs on the wall, the icon singing to a small crowd from a stage no bigger than the one underneath the photo. A red-and-black drum kit fills most of the performance area, so frontwoman Davies will soon have no choice but to take over the room, serving as singer, hostess, and mistress of ceremonies. For now, though, she's getting ready at the end of the bar, vibing as the band takes the stage without her, opening with two instrumentals.

Dressed in black, her brunette hair teased out, Davies beams, her big white smile rimmed with bright-red lipstick. A silver ring catches the light, a glittering bracelet coils around a wrist. In the dimly lit room, guitarist Marc Greenwald works his way around the fretboard in measured bursts. The band rotates in and out of the spotlight, playing slow solos, gradually increasing the tempo. When Davies takes the stage, she claps her hands, shakes her hips, and nods her head from the first note. On Freddie King's "I Ain't Got Nobody" and Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What Do You Want Me to Do?", she closes her eyes and sings like a young Aretha, begging for affection, offering to love you better.

By midnight, 2527 is standing-room-only, and most of the place is a bustling dance floor. Davies steps offstage and dances in the crowd during instrumentals. A rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" gets the room shuffling, swinging, dipping, and twisting. It's not like a rock show. It's not like the rock life.

"There's a real scene for the blues," Davies explains later, making each gesture large enough to see all the way across the club. "People will go see [Cleveland roots rockers] Rosavelt at the Beachland with three other bands on a Tuesday night, and the band will get a part of the door. We play smaller bars, we almost always play weekends, and we almost never work for the door."

The economic conventions of the blues make it easier when the band is working the outer limits of its slowly growing territory. Playing smaller bars more frequently, for a guaranteed payout, helps prevent the survival struggles that most rock bands face. The group plays between 4 and 16 shows a month at a handful of Cleveland clubs like Stamper's and Wilbert's, and occasionally reaches as far as the Blues Station in Columbus. To ensure a draw, they might trade shows with a compatible group, such as Columbus's Pat McLaughlin Band. Swapping shows is fairly common in the rock world, but even more so in blues.

"Blues is a lot more familial," says Davies, noting that petty everyday rock squabbles aren't a factor in the blues scene. Bands don't bicker about who gets the longest set. "It's not more adult; it's more childish -- childish like 'I have a sandwich; are you hungry, too?' We're happy to share."

The Mary Bridget Davies Group, in fact, is family: Davies is married to her bassist, Adam Constantine. They met at a jam night at the festive downtown blues spot Fat Fish Blue. She was too nervous to perform, and they didn't hit it off; three years later, they bumped into each other at the Savannah. By then she had developed confidence and chops. While attending Bowling Green, she loaded trucks at UPS to fund school and trips to Cleveland to attend jam nights and work with the improv group Cabaret Dada. A dancer since age three, she toured the country with renowned choreographer Tina Landen (who taught Janet Jackson) and now teaches dance by day before taking the stage at night. Davies and her young white bandmates look too clean to play the blues this well, but they have a pedigree. Davies's father, whom she greets midsong as he walks into the bar tonight, is Brian Davies, lead singer for '70s Cleveland rockers Labrynth. Constantine has played with Colin Dussault and Sonny PC Williams's Blues Explosion. Alto saxophonist Ethan "Top Shelf Rocks" Sheils is equally comfortable playing the blues or Beethoven. Drummer Dan Jankowski is the son of Cleveland music legend Russell Jankowski, who played in the Tree Stumps. Trumpet player Don Day cut his teeth in the Uptown Funk All-Stars.

The group's sole member closer to 40 than 30, guitarist Greenwald grew from punk to blues, studying with Michael Bay and Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charanghat. He saw Davies perform at a Parkview jam night and immediately knew he wanted to play with her. Two years later, the two write the group's original material together. Their live shows are developing a following, but the music also works as pure audio; soon, they hope to record an album of their own songs.

"One of the most difficult things I've found in playing music is finding people who want to do their homework, to play, to work together," says Greenwald. "But we have all that here. I think if we continue the way we've started, enough people are really going to like it."

The band's repertoire offers plenty to like.

"We play the blues, but not front-porch blues, with a guitar and a harmonica," says Davies. "It's a total cliché, but we're a potpourri. We're R&B -- rhythm and blues. And soul. And jazz."

Hence the name change. Previously known as the mellifluous Blues on Purpose, the group recently rechristened itself the Mary Bridget Davies Group -- not the result of a lead-singer ego trip, but of expert advice. At this year's International Blues Challenge in Memphis -- the Super Bowl of blues -- renowned guitarist Vasti Jackson suggested that the word "blues" in the title would limit their prospects. Blues on Purpose made it to the semifinals nonetheless.

"We're into the game," says Davies. "Blues fans are dedicated. And to be accepted by that caliber of fans and musicians -- to me, that's making it."

- D.X. Ferris

"The New School of Rock"

For the past decade, Cleveland has been dominated by a relatively stable contingent of bands that consistently clean up at local music awards ceremonies, no matter what category they're misplaced in. Recently, however, a new cluster of acts has emerged. Some of these bands have been working the circuit for a couple of years and some have only just appeared in the last few months. Here's a collection of 10 groups — each of which has either recently issued its debut or started circulating a demo — that have started to catch a buzz. There're others we could have included, but we tried to select acts that are starting to draw bigger crowds and appear to have built up some momentum.

Blues on Purpose

In January at the Blues Foundation-sponsored International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Cleveland will be presenting a youthful face to the blues world. Blues on Purpose, which is being sponsored by the Rock Hall, will participate in this prestigious competition for unsigned blues artists during which as many as 80 bands play over three days in Beale Street clubs. And only one Blues on Purpose band member is older than 27.

The group debuted in October 2002, bringing something new to a scene where the faces seldom change and many bands play the same songs in the same order year after year. Its big, horn-driven blues sound is featured in a lively stage show, fronted by vocalist Mary Bridget Davies, who's also a dancer.

“It sprung from a bunch of jam night musicians,” says Davies. “I'd been going to jam nights for about three years. One night at the Mardi Gras, Kristine Jackson and I said, ‘we need our own band.'”

Davies and trumpeter Jackson (who departed to spend the winter in Amsterdam and has been replaced by Don Day) assembled a group that now includes drummer Dan Jankowski, guitarist Marc Greenwald, sax player Ethan Sheils and bassist Adam Constantine. They put together a wide-ranging repertoire of blues, jazz, funk, rock and R&B tunes, trying to steer away from those that had been worn thin by area bands. In addition, Davies and Greenwald have been writing material, and the band is currently checking out studios to begin recording its first release in the next few months.

An interesting side note is that both Davies and Jankowski are offspring of old Cleveland musicians. Jankowski was in such popular late '60s/early '70s Cleveland rock bands as Audi Badoo and the Tree Stumps while Davies was vocalist for '70s rockers Labrynth.

— Anastasia Pantsios
- Anastasia Pantsios

"Mary Bridget Davies to appear at breast cancer benefit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame"

Mary Bridget Davies hit the Cleveland blues scene with a bang, appearing at weekly jamnights and eventually joining forces with other musicians forming a backing band now known as the Mary Briget Davies Group. She has been titled this years Best Vocalist in Cleveland Freetimes Readers Poll and has been backed by Janis Joplins own band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Mary recently began touring the National Blues Circuit. She will be staying home to belt out the blues for her fourth Breastfest performance. - Tracy Marie Greenburg


Singles: "Baby", "Tonight", "After All I've Done for You", "Under the Gun". EP: "Mary Bridget Davies" Some of the tracks on "Mary Bridget Davies" have been featured on 90.3FM WCPN on the show "Around Noon with Dee Perry" and 89.3FM WRUW on DJ Tanner's program and"What's New with Dot Martin". More tracks from the LP have been aired on KKFI Kansas City. One track was featured on Magic 105.7FM during promotions for a show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and on 1100AM WTAM for a Toys for Tots Benefit.



Who we are:

Formed in October of 2002, formerly known as Blues On Purpose, the Mary Bridget Davies Group is comprised of some of Cleveland's finest musicians. Our repertoire spans rock, soul, funk, and of course, blues. The players in this band have shared the stage with such noted musicians as, Big Brother and the Holding Company, W. C. Clark, Leon Russell, Delbert McClinton, Renee Austin, Walter Trout, Bobby Rush, Bobby Bland and Koko Taylor. The main goal of this band is to put on a great show and have fun doing it. Whether you are downtown at an upscale supper club, or on the wrong side of the tracks in a roadhouse, you are likely to find us hashing out some blues... on purpose!

What sets us apart:

With the average age of the band being 26, MBDG caters to a more youthful crowd. By mixing contemporary music with classic R&B and blues standards, along with original music, we appeal to all age groups which is reflected in our following. This band features an award-winning female vocalist, compared to the likes of Etta James, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin.


The band has been nominated for the 2004 and 2005 Cleveland Free Times Magazine and Cleveland Scene Magazine Music Awards in the category of "Best Blues Band."
Mary Bridget Davies was also nominated for the Free Times Music Awards in the category of "Best Vocalist" and won the category.
Competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN in 2004 and2005 as semi- finalists.
Sponsored by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer
Appeared on the Cleveland radio show, Around Noon with Dee Perry on 90.3 FM WCPN
Appeared on the WVIZ Television Series, Applause, alongside B.B. King and Robert Jr. Lockwood in conjunction with Martin Scorcese's The Blues.

Mary Bridget, simply put, is a gem." Mark Leach, organist and band leader for The Buddy Miles Express.

Involved in the arts since before school age, Mary is definitive of "the Total Package". As a dancer, vocalist, and former member of Cleveland's own Something Dada Improvisational Comedy Company she seriously knows her way around the stage.
She begun dancing at age three and has excelled ever since. Now an instructor and choreographer by day, she rips it up on local and national stages night after night! A recipient of the DEBBIE REYNOLDS SCHOLARSHIP for JAZZ in Los Angeles at age 15, Mary was not only dancing. Her talents as a songstress were now beginning to emerge. She was now training under Thommie Walsh, a Tony award winner for co-writing the book, Behind the Line, about the Broadway hit, A CHORUS LINE. Upon entering into the vocal category of the dance competitions, she tackled "First Place Overall" as well as "Most Entertaining" awards with her smoldering rendition of Oleta Adams' "Get Here", years before it became an American Idol audition standard at the Grand National Championships in Virginia Beach. After that, she spent summers of training in the Baldwin-Wallace College Honors Choir, private coaching through Riverside Academy of Music and still maintains her own style. After high school she toured with Hoctor's Dance Caravan.

Then she got hip to the blues jam nights. She went and watched with her parents. She asked to sit in, but she was encouraged to listen that week and come back next week to sing. She listened and came back. She was in the last group of the jammers and she sang, "Please Send Me Someone to Love" by Percy Mayfield, which is presently one of her signature songs. She was asked to be in the band Blues Explosion that same night. She learned as she went, and started building a solid reputation.

Mary Bridget hasn't stopped chirping since. No doubt you'll be reminded of the likes of Janis Joplin, Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Chaka Kahn but you'll definitely notice she also has an element all her own. Mary has performed with groups like BIG BROTHER and the HOLDING COMPANY, COLIN DUSSAULT and THE BAD BOYS OF BLUES. A competitor in the International Blues Challenge, held by the Blues Foundation 2004, she will be returning to compete in 2005 sponsored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is now a part of the blues festival circuit, having shared the bill with Delbert McClinton, Walter Trout, W. C. Clark, Daniel "Slick" Balinger, Nick Moss and the Fliptops, Eddie and Van Shaw, Leon Russell, Huey Lewis and the News, Bobby Rush and Renee Austin and also holds the honorable title of "BEST VOCALIST" by The Cleveland Free Times as lead vocalist for The Mary Bridget Davies Group, formerly Blues On Purpose.