The J.Davis Trio
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The J.Davis Trio

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Band Hip Hop Jazz

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Aug
30
The J.Davis Trio @ Metro

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States

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‘I love hip-hop to my bones,” said rapper-vibraphonist Julio Davis, leader of Chicago’s masterly jazz-rap band J. Davis Trio, while steering his SUV post-rehearsal through a spitting March rain as it morphed into the five-hundredth snowstorm of this apparently immortal winter. “I have a blueprint, in my head, of how that music is supposed to sound. And luckily, people keep enjoying this journey I’m on, transcribing that stuff in my head into [actual] sounds.”

Said journey, 19 years and counting, brings all seven current members of the Trio’s flexible lineup (plus guest vocalists Cara Dawn and Poi Dog Pondering’s Carla Prather) to the Double Door Mar. 21 — hence the full band get-together several hours earlier, in drummer Sam Sharp’s Logan Square home.

Amid the turmeric-hued walls of Sharp’s commodious basement, Davis and his ultra-cool virtuoso ensemble ran through original tunes plus transfigured covers: ’90s hip-hop classics including Tupac Shakur’s “California Love” and LL Cool J’s “Jingling Baby,” plus Hall & Oates’ 1981 pop-R&B chart-topper, “I Can’t Go For That;” and the insouciant ’60s instrumental “Soulful Strut,” laced with founding member Dave Winer’s trumpet and more recent addition Chris Greene’s tenor sax.

Throughout, Davis deftly toggled between rhyming, supplying extra percussion, playing vibes parts on a stand-in glockenspiel — and directing the band, which also includes original bassist David E. Smith, conga player Ryan Patrick Murphy, and keyboardist T. J. Widner. “They’re the most talented musicians I know,” observed Dawn, who’s sung with a variety of Chicago groups. “Highly skilled and hard-working, they’re also passionate and driven.”

Dawn delivered supple, powerhouse vocals on “Soulful Strut,” which began life as the backing track for Chicago R&B singer Barbara Acklin’s 1966 Top 40 single, “Am I the Same Girl;” re-released in ’68 as “Soulful Strut” by Young Holt Unlimited, it hitNo. 3.

Both versions were produced by the late Chicago soul legend Carl Davis, who crafted a multitude of classic hits — and who happens to be Julio’s father. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” remarked saxophonist Greene.

“I grew up in a super-musical family,” confirmed Davis. “Music always playing in our house, Dad was bringing home music, people would be sending demo tapes, the Chi-Lites would be singing in my living room ….”

Classic soulmeisters Davis revered in his youth — Isley Brothers, Barry White, Stevie Wonder — “were all, like, my dad’s friends;” Wonder himself would send them his new albums. Still, Davis stressed, “It didn’t dawn on me how big Dad was; he was my dad, and that was his job.” A photo of Carl Davis, who passed away in 2012 at 77, adorns the cover of “Vintage,” the Trio’s most recent release.

Chicago rock ’n’ soul bandleader Nicholas Tremulis, a guest guitarist on “Vintage,” favorably compares a Trio show to a Beat Generation experience: “When I hear Julio rap, it reminds me of how Miles Davis talked. And their music is all about the spaces; it’s like the lines of a ’57 car. You feel cooler, just having been in the room with them.” - The Chicago Sun Times


For hip-hop fans who’ve had their fill of urban grit and flashy bling, the innovative rhymes of The J. Davis Trio might be your thing. Intertwined with soul and jazz, These Things Happen is a laid-back, beat-laden record featuring cool horns and emotive strings that complement the truly awesome rhymes perfectly.
– Dean Ramos - Illinois Entertainer
- Illinois Entertainer


Slinky jazz hooks, live trumpet and vibes, and laid-back flows make Chicago's J.Davis Trio pretty much instantly likeable for anyone who enjoys De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest. Granted, the band wears "Swingers-caliber" shirts and describes itself as "Martini-flavored", but this doesn't dilute it's funky grasp on hip-hop. Here, the group celebrates the release of its new album, "These Things Happen", its first album since 2002's "The New No.2".
- The Onion - The Onion


The Trio is certainly staking it's claim in an underexplored sector of hip-hop's terrain. There's the avant-jazz element, for one, heard in the skeletal, ultracool sonic landscape of Davis' voice, Flav-r-ice's bass and occaisional flute, Ron of Japan's trumpet and The Professa's drums.
-Moira McCormick
- Chicago Tribune


"This local hip-hop outfit--a quartet, not a trio--makes it's backing tracks the hard way, getting their grooves mostly from real bass and drums. Ron of Japan's trumpet skitters around them, but competes only slightly with rapper Stuart's lucid poetry, which would give these guys an edge even if they used samples."
-Monica Kendrick
- Chicago Reader on JDT


"Entirely organic-free of samples and DJ's-the band synthesizes low-key bop and rap vocals, hitting on the head what so many acts have tried to achieve in the past...cut a swath of jazz cooler than a Canadian Chinook, all the while maintaining a steady, funky beat which operates as the skeleton from which Stuart fleshes out the raps...Stuart's rap style, in addition to a clever sense of humor and wry humor and wry sarcasm makes the trio all the more alluring....Not just one of the best local records of the year, but among the best I've heard in general"
-Dave Chamberlain
- New City Magazine on JDT


These four local musicians bill their inventive sound as "rap music for the rest of us". Think of it as Chicago's answer to the fluid, jazzy musically challenging hip-hop of the Roots, and revel in the smart, sexy grooves of their solid debut* album.
-Jim Derogatis
- Chicago Sun Times on JDT


Discography

1. 7" single "Music to love ly" - 1997
2. debut "The J.Davis Trio - 1999
3. "The New No.2" - 2002
4. "Krusty" w/DJ Squeak .e. clean on "Yeah Right" skate dvd by Spike Jones - 2005
5. "These things happen" - 2007
6. "Vintage" EP - 2012

Photos

Bio

Following their musical heart, The J. Davis Trio continues to thrive. They thrive not only because of their connection to real hip hop and jazz music, but also because of their ability to grow and change. Starting as trio, they now have as many as 8-10 people on stage, utilizing many types of instrumentation and styles. Their independence has allowed them to explore and incorporate from unexpected sources, resulting in a sound uniquely their own. Began as an actual trio with Julio Davis/vocals, Dave Smith/bass & Tone Aimone/drums, they realized that in order to play live, they needed another element. Paula Pergl came and provided flute for awhile. When she left, she was soon replaced by long time member, mulit-instrumentalist, Dave Winer. The J.Davis Trio arrived on the Chicago scene with their debut eponymous album, The J.Davis Trio, in 1999 where they created national buzz with a North American tour that included famous Chicago venues like The Metro, The House of Blues, the historic Green Mill Jazz club, and many colleges in the midwest. Tours to the east coast, the CMJ Music Fest in New York, down to the SXSW Music Fest in Austin, TX., to L.A. soon followed
Their next album "The New No. 2" released in 2002 reflected a leap in their development and saw them working with many great Chicago artists. Rappers like Cap D from All Natural and Juice made an appearance, as well as musicians like Jeff Parker from Tortoise and Paul Mertens of The Brian Wilson Group. This effort was well received by critics:
"These four local musicians bill their inventive sound as "rap music for the rest of us". Think of it as Chicago's answer to the fluid, jazzy musically challenging hip-hop of the Roots, and revel in the smart, sexy grooves of their solid debut* album."
-Jim Derogatis Chicago Sun Times.
""This local hip-hop outfit--a quartet, not a trio--makes it's backing tracks the hard way, getting their grooves mostly from real bass and drums. Ron of Japan's trumpet skitters around them, but competes only slightly with rapper Stuart's lucid poetry, which would give these guys an edge even if they used samples."
Monica Kendrick Chicago Reader.

The band released their next album, "These Things Happen" in 2007.
This project saw them reunite with Julio Davis' original rap crew, Chicago legends Stony Island, as well as vocal and musical cameos by Poi Dog Pondering front man Frank Orrall.
In 2011, they returned with their most ambitious recording to date, "Vintage".
The J.Davis Trio has shared the stage with acts such as:
The Roots, M'shelle N'degleocello, Ozomatli, Reuben Wilson, De La Soul, Maceo Parker, Norah Jones, Groove Collective, Talib Kwali, Shinehead, The Greyboy Allstars, Karl Denson, The Pharcyde, Black Eyed Peas, Tortoise, Living Colour, Poi Dog Pondering, and Modeski, Martin and Wood.
Slinky jazz hooks, live trumpet and vibes, and laid-back flows make Chicago's J.Davis Trio pretty much instantly likeable for anyone who enjoys De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest. Granted, the band wears "Swingers-caliber" shirts and describes itself as "Martini-flavored", but this doesn't dilute it's funky grasp on hip-hop. Here, the group celebrates the release of its new album, "These Things Happen", its first album since 2002's "The New No.2".
- The Onion

Band Members