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Davina and the Vagabonds

Jazz

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One of the most distinctive and expressive vocalists to come around in a while, with tight backing from the Vagabonds

—Phoenix Blues Society

Easily among the breakout stars at this year’s [Monterey Jazz] festival.

Monterey Herald

Davina and the Vagabonds have created a stir on the national music scene with their high-energy live shows, quality musicianship, sharp-dressed professionalism, and Davina Sowers’s commanding stage presence. With influences ranging from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits, the band is converting audiences one show at a time, from Vancouver to Miami and across Europe.

In 2011, Sowers released her first full-length, all-original album Black Cloud. It was named one of the ten best releases of the year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and awarded 4½ stars from DownBeat Magazine. The band’s next release in 2014, Sunshine, hit number thirteen on the Billboard Blues Chart and led them to land a performance on the hit BBC2 show Later . . .  with Jools Holland.

The group’s shows are filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul swagger, dark theatrical moments that evoke Kurt Weill, and tender gospel passages. Sowers’s voice and stage presence defy categorization in a different way. She has been compared to Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Betty Boop, but comparisons don’t suffice: Sowers is a true original.

Drawing on one hundred years of American music and Sowers’s originals, which lend themselves to the American Songbook, the band brings edgy nostalgia to older generations and fresh new music to younger ears. This rollicking quintet is held together by Sowers’s keyboard playing, with acoustic bass, drums, and a spicy trumpet and trombone horn section. The group’s focused, clean sound, with emphasis on acoustic instruments, is novel to both blues and jazz worlds and sets the show closer to New Orleans than to Chicago.

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