Van Davis
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Van Davis

Band Rock Jazz

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


The evening of Van Davis' CD release party at the Knitting Factory Tap Room in lower Manhattan was at the height of this summer's East Coast heat wave. Pushing 100 degrees outside where fans escaped for some air or a quick smoke, the temperature inside was hot enough to ensure the venue did record sales at the bar. The metal fans in their leather and denim jackets were probably wondering what the hell they were doing there.

Metal fans at a jazz show? Perhaps they were just there to catch opening act the Alex Skolnick Trio, who Van Davis invited to share the bill that evening, headed by the former lead guitarist for Testament, with whom he recorded five albums and toured the world with the biggest names in the genre. When Skolnick's band finished their scorching set, fans might have ducked out to the street for a few minutes, or hit the bar again for another shot, but no one left.

After Skolnick's set, Van Davis' founder and guitarist, Jake Ezra, hit the stage to begin setting up. It turns out that Skolnick was a huge influence on Ezra's own playing. Ezra even had Skolnick's poster up on his wall while in school. Both players were heavily influenced by Eddie Van Halen, who also provides the first half of the name of Ezra's band. The "Davis" in Van Davis comes from Miles Davis, one of jazz's most visionary and influential performers and composers.

When Van Davis, with Ezra on guitar, Patrick Carmichael on drums and Jon Price on bass, start their headlining set, it's immediately apparent that they live up to the styles of both namesakes, and take the sound in new and exciting directions. Ezra's collection of pedals and effects is used to add stunning color to the music, and his manipulation of the wah pedal is perfect. The rhythm section moves from jazz to blues grooves effortlessly, and touches on a harder rock vibe without missing a beat or making it seem the least bit forced. They are clearly tight and comfortable in their environment.

The New York City-based trio started in 2002 and has played several of Manhattan's best-known live venues, including 55 Bar, Arlene’s Grocery, Kenny’s Castaways and CBGB. The show at the Knitting Factory Tap Room was to celebrate the release of their new CD, Have You Seen This Band?, which should be a big step in not only solidifying the band reputation around Manhattan, but breaking them outside of the area as well.

As Van Davis' set was winding down, and the room cooked from the summer heat, fans got in closer and moved along, not wanting to miss a single moment. For a band to hold a room's attention for an hour can be tough enough. To do so when cool drinks and fresh air are calling longingly, is an indication of how compelling the music and the band's performance really are. - Chorus and Verse


If you need some music to chill out to, or you really miss Stevie Ray Vaughn, you may want to check out this CD. A wise meld of jazz with blues infusions, the instrumental songs take you away into a jammy chillin' world. They call it "instrumental music with a lot to say", and that's true. The chord progressions lifted me out of the monotony that most jam/instrumental bands have. Bass is dominant, and it kicks butt. Ahh, sometimes it's the simple music that speaks volumes. If you like jazz or blues on occasion, or if you adore it, you'll like this. Pull up a cup of coffee, this is the kind of music you could listen to for hours over a good conversation and an even better brew. I'm game for seeing them live.

Favorite Tracks: Monkey Chips, 9
Rating: 4.5 stars

- Discovering Artists


This New York trio provides a funky, almost 70's vibe for their brand of music. A very live feel from the sounds of the cd, I don't pick up a lot of overdubbing, just smooth transition playing by all the bands members. This band features the guitars of Jake Ezra, who pays homage to the players that set the standards of blues, jazz and funky fusion music, I can hear echoes of Larry Carlton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Benson, Robben Ford. Those are some heavy hitters, but I also hear the likes of lesser known funk/jazz players like Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, Ray Gomez or Doc Powell. I am not sure if Ezra is aware of those players, but at some point on this cd, he has captured their sound in some capacity.

I like the overall appeal of this cd, the music goes from funky and tight, to heavy and hardrocking, always keeping the ears wide open. Having a solid bass and drum unit like Roberto Ruiz and Patrick Carmichael, allows Ezra to fly all over the place with his large catalogue of tones and expressions. On other songs Ezra shows that his taste run the gamut of whatever the guitar can do, he even does a pretty fair job of chickenpickin' ala Steve Morse/Albert Lee on the song Assgrass. I guess you could say that Jake Ezra is the east coast version of Steve Morse, maybe not quite as obnoxiously technical, but very good.

I didn't see any barcoding on this cd, so I am going out on a limb to say that this thing was self-financed, self-produced and self-released through the bands website, and this is an exciting time when bands can do this, without the pressures and exploitations of labels, managers, and BIZ as we know it to be. It's a pretty throwback cd, nostalgic, vintage sounding, but with a fresh appeal, the band flows together well, each seemingly equally talented, with the kind of chemistry that allows them to feed off of one another. Ezra has enough versatility and talent, to express his playing in total freedom. This is a solid trio, and from what I am hearing on this cd, I am guessing they are a fun live band to see and hear.

If what you have read thus far sounds like something you might like, go to the bands website and check out some samples or vids, and you will get your own impressions of Van Davis (who ever he is?). Nice Job.
- proGGnosis / MJ Brady


Discography

Have You Seen This Band? (2006)
Van Davis self-titled debut CD (2002)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

VAN DAVIS is a high-energy trio from New York City with a sound that straddles the worlds of rock, funk, and jazz. Their infectious melodies and deep, distinctive grooves give a nod to progressive rock, jazz fusion, metal, classical, and bluegrass, producing a hybrid that is both complex and fun. The band is known for their adventurous improvisation within intricate, well-composed songs. Guitarist JAKE EZRA explains, "We're always throwing curve balls at each other and having musical dialogues. I never view our songs as totally finished. I always encourage the band to take chances and try something new."

The story of Van Davis began in 2002 with Jake Ezra's desire to start an innovative instrumental band with the rock bravado of Van Halen and the free musical experimentation of Miles Davis (hence the moniker Van Davis). Immediately onboard was drummer PATRICK CARMICHAEL, who wowed Jake with his relaxed precision and funky, fun compositions. Bassist JON PRICE rounded out the trio, bringing his in-depth understanding of groove and improvisation to the project. The band's 2003 self-titled debut CD was hailed as "a funky, very live-feeling CD that runs the gamut of whatever the guitar can do" (Mike Brady, proGGnosis).

Van Davis' passionate following has packed renowned NYC venues including the Knitting Factory, 55 Bar, Arlene’s Grocery, and CBGB. While onstage, the band members share their humor and spontaneity as well as the technical proficiency their fans have come to expect: "Ezra's collection of pedals and effects is used to add stunning color to the music, and his manipulation of the wah pedal is perfect. The rhythm section moves from jazz to blues grooves effortlessly, and touches on a harder rock vibe without missing a beat… " (Matt Mrowicki, Chorus and Verse).

The band's forthcoming CD "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS BAND?" captures the evolution of Van Davis' sound. The cover art portrays the faces of Jake, Jon, and Patrick on a milk carton as if they were "missing." In truth, the band is now finding what they’ve been looking for: a way make "instrumental music with a lot to say" accessible to a global audience. With a steady stream of new fans falling in love with the band’s sound, Van Davis is poised to become a permanent fixture in the instrumental groove-rock scene.