Saturday, November 22, 2008

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Spotlight on Jeremy Davenport



This week's Saturday video post is dedicated to St. Louis native, trumpeter and singer Jeremy Davenport, who's coming home Thanksgiving weekend to play Friday, November 28 and Saturday, November 29 at Jazz at the Bistro. (Davenport also will play a special matinee at the Bistro on Sunday, November 30 as a benefit for PAN CAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network).

Davenport is known mostly as a straight-ahead, swinging player, influenced heavily by the New Orleans tradition, but also by the laid-back vocals of Chet Baker and of Harry Connick Jr., with whom Davenport has worked. Born in St. Louis into a musical family - his father Roger spent more than 40 years as a trombonist with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra - Davenport started playing music as a kid and attended University City High School, alma mater of several other noted jazz players such as bassist Neal Caine and pianist Peter Martin.

He earned a scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with, among others, Wynton Marsalis. Enamored with the New Orleans sound and encouraged by opportunities for work and the presence of other St. Louis transplants, Davenport moved south in the early 1990s, studying at the University of New Orleans with Wynton's dad, pianist Ellis Marsalis.

From there, Davenport landed a job with Connick Jr's big band, doing four world tours with that group. Davenport later snagged a house gig at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, but that was rudely interrupted when Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding so damaged the hotel that it had to close for more than a year. Davenport came home to St. Louis, where he spent 2006 and the first part of 2007 leading the house band at the now-closed Busch's Grove.

When the Ritz Carlton New Orleans reopened last year, Davenport got his old gig back - lucky for him, given the high-profile failure of Busch's Grove - and he continues to play in the hotel's French Quarter Bar three nights a week. He's also appeared as a musical guest on chef Emeril Lagasse's TV show, and has managed to return to St. Louis to perform at Jazz at the Bistro on Thanksgiving weekend for the last several years.

Given that he's a musician who works steadily and has a fan base, Davenport does seem a bit under-recorded. His discography includes several CDs as a sideman with the Connick band from the early 1990s, and two releases as a leader on the Telarc label, a self-titled debut in 1996 and a follow-up titled Maybe In A Dream in 1998.

Since then, Davenport's only publicly available recording has been a live album recorded in St. Louis in 2003 at the Bistro that was featured on National Public Radio's "Jazzset" program and eventually released on AAM Recordings in 2005. One can only speculate as to why Davenport hasn't recorded more; if nothing else, a "Live at the Ritz Carlton" CD would seem to be a natural, just for the potential sales off the bandstand as souvenirs of his live show. Overall, given his trumpet chops, vocal skills, and marketable image, he would seem to have just the sort of crossover potential that would appeal to many record companies, even in these hard-pressed times.

Alas, online video footage of Davenport is fairly scarce, too, but there were a couple of clips that merit a look. Up top is a video of Davenport performing a spirited version of the New Orleans classic "When The Saints Go Marching In." The picture quality is poor, as it looks to have been shot with a camcorder using only available light in the Ritz Carlton bar, but the sound quality actually is quite nice, considering the circumstances, and you can hear Davenport well.

Down below, you'll find a profile of Davenport that was done a couple of years ago by reporter/producer Anne-Marie Berger for Living St. Louis, the newsmagazine show that airs on local PBS affiliate KETC.

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