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Turtle Bay Records Presents Mike Davis album

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    Posted: 28 Sep 2023 at 12:06am





Coming September 22, 2023 on Turtle Bay Records 

THE NEW WONDERS - The New Wonders cover




New York City has always had the most vibrant jazz scene in the world, and in the last few years that scene has been re-energized by a younger generation of jazz artists with a penchant for music of the 1920s and 30s. For the last 10 years, cornetist, arranger, and vocalist MIKE DAVIS has been at the forefront of the traditional jazz movement.


Davis is a bandleader and an in-demand sideman. He is now releasing his first album, THE NEW WONDERS, which is also the name of the band he fronts. The album comprises 13 tunes that pay homage to the original, traditional music style but with a fresh sensibility. The album appears on Scott Asen’s Turtle Bay Records label. Asen is a fan of early jazz and created the label to give contemporary artists a platform to share their interpretations of the music with a wider audience.


Joining Davis on THE NEW WONDERS are some of the leading lights on the New York City traditional jazz scene, including RICKY ALEXANDER (clarinet, alto sax, vocals), JOE McDONOUGH (trombone, JARED ENGEL (banjo), DALTON RIDENHOUR (piano), JAY RATTMAN (bass sax, vocals), and JAY LEPLEY (drums, vocals). Davis named the band The New Wonders for the model of cornet played by Bix Beiderbecke, one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 1920s.


Both of Davis’s parents were in the Seattle Symphony, and he started studying the cornet at the age of nine. He performed in different school bands throughout high school, and his parents encouraged him to go to college if he wanted to pursue music as a career. So when he was 18 years old he left Seattle and enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music. The academic experience, however, did not live up to his expectations.


Davis wanted to work as a commercial musician, but he felt the music he was being taught swung between two opposite poles: it was either too complex with too many rules or too free without any rules at all. He appreciated the talent and innovativeness of modern jazz players, but the music itself did not resonate with him. It wasn’t until he heard old 78 rpm records that something clicked. He felt an ineluctable pull to play traditional jazz.


Davis set out to be a craftsman as well as an artist. He listened to and absorbed a lot of old records, studying the different personal styles each player brought to the recording. The music became part of his identity, and he even began dressing in the style of the period, right down to the bespoke suits and pencil mustache.


Mona’s Bar in Manhattan is a hub for traditional jazz musicians. Every Tuesday night, they host a late-night trad jazz jam session that lasts into the wee hours. Davis became a regular, meeting other like-minded


musicians. He wrote down every tune he heard, looking for hidden gems and learning about each song. With precise technique and broad knowledge of traditional jazz, it did not take long for Davis to become a sought-after sideman. He has been a member of Terry Waldo’s Gotham City Band for 10 years and has worked with stalwarts like Emily Asher’s Garden Party, Glenn Crytzer, Baby Soda, Dan Levinson, and many other traditional jazz and swing bands. He also began fronting his own band, The New Wonders, with a rotating cast of musicians.


Although he has incorporated the styles of many musicians, he cites Red Nichols, Louis Armstrong, and Bix Beiderbecke as foundational influences. Davis says, “I was particularly taken with Bix Beiderbecke for his pure sound and ability to play extended solos that told a story, which was not the norm at the time. “


Davis does not try to imitate the past masters and merely re-create their recordings. Rather, he studies their techniques and incorporates them in his own improvisations. And he does not necessarily use, for example, a Beiderbecke technique in a song made famous by the cornet master. Instead, he may base his solo on a Louis Armstrong style or an approach he heard on a Paul Whiteman record. The tunes have the vibrance and feel of the originals but are re-imagined with Davis’s extensive music vocabulary.


Davis also sings on several tunes. The timbre of his voice sounds much like a singer in Ted Lewis’s band. Davis says, “When I sing, I really don’t try to sound like anyone in particular. It’s just a happy coincidence that my natural timbre hews so closely to vocal stylings of that period.”


Traditional jazz has mostly a light-hearted, danceable feel, and for THE NEW WONDERS, Davis mined tunes that were performed by famous bands, like “I’d Rather Cry Over You” by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, “I’m More than Satisfied” by Bix Beiderbecke, “The Baltimore” by Frankie Trumbauer and His Orchestra, and “Jungle Crawl” by Tiny Parham, featuring an arrangement Davis wrote for a burlesque show.


Other tunes came from early cinema, like “Smile, Darn Ya, Smile!” from a 1931 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies cartoon short, and "She's Funny That Way," which was composed for the short film Gems of MGM in 1929 for Marion Harris, and also recorded by Billie Holiday in 1953. As women began expressing themselves more freely in the 1920s, dancing the Charleston and smoking cigarettes, vamp songs, i.e., songs about naughty women, were popular, and Davis includes “Flamin’ Mamie” by the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra and “Clorinda” by the Chicago Loopers. Davis and the band also perform two songs by The Goofus Five, “Poor Papa” and “I Need Lovin’.” The Goofus Five are not well- known today but were quite popular back then. The “goofus” was a saxophone-like instrument that was like a mouth-blown accordion.


As the old saw says, “Everything old is new again,” and that certainly holds true today with the renewed interest in music that was written and performed nearly 100 years ago. As evidenced on THE NEW WONDERS, talented musicians like Mike Davis and his band have put a fresh face on this cornerstone of American popular music.

# # #


THE NEW WONDERS will be released on September 22, 2023, on Turtle Bay Records and will be available at Turtlebayrecords.com and on all platforms.






YouTube: @turtlebayrecords9686

IG: @turtlebayrecords 


Edited by snobb - 28 Sep 2023 at 12:07am
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