By Drew Ailes
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University City native Jeremy Davenport is coming home from New Orleans for Thanksgiving, and he's bringing his band along to debut the Backstage Bistro's new Spotlight Series, designed to highlight young musicians who are making their mark on the national jazz scene.
Davenport, who has recorded two albums as a leader for the Telarc label, certainly qualifies. He's also become a regular on the competitive New Orleans jazz-club circuit, and he recently turned down a lucrative job on Harry Connick Jr.'s upcoming tour to keep his own group going in the Big Easy.
"I played on Harry's last recording," says Davenport during a recent phone interview from his New Orleans home. "And when Harry asked me to go on tour with him, it was a tough decision, because he was basically reuniting all the guys who had toured in his big band before. I think I was the only guy asked who turned it down. "But it's really rewarding for me to work a lot with my own band at this stage. So I felt I really had to do this instead."
Davenport is bringing a fine cast of musicians with him for his Friday- and Saturday-evening performances at the Bistro. Here's how he ran down the band's lineup:
"Eric Slaughter is on guitar, and he's from St. Louis," says Davenport. "He and I missed each other by a couple of years growing up. I convinced him to move down here from New York, and he's really been tearing it up. Troy Davis, who plays a lot with Monty Alexander, is on drums, and he's a great musician. And David Torkanowsky is on piano, and I think he's one of the best pianists in New Orleans. (Torkanowsky was the musical director for singer Dianne Reeves for many years and is also a member of the critically acclaimed group Astral Project.)
But the most interesting aspect of Davenport's band is the bass player -- or players. Neal Caine will play with Davenport both nights, but on Saturday, Chris Thomas and David Pulphus will make the bass spot something of a musical tag team as all three St. Louis native take turns with the band.