In an age of tight radio playlists and shrinking smooth-jazz stations, guitarist Drew Davidsen proves there's always room for those whose talent rises to the top. "Astro," a song from Davidsen's second solo CD, 2009's "Around (Again)" on Creative Soul Jazz, broke through on the dial with its bright melodies and engaging guitar sound. In doing so, "Astro" logged an impressive 17 weeks on the Smooth Jazz Top 20 Countdown, a chart compiled by Broadcast Architecture's Smooth Jazz Network. The popular song - which JazzTimes called "a rollicking tune ? with a bouncy optimism" - is one reason why Davidsen picked up a Best New Artist nomination from the 2010 American Smooth Jazz Awards.
In between his busy touring schedule at clubs and at some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the U.S., Davidsen is also creating new music. A Christmas CD, "We 3 Stringz," featuring Chuck Loeb, Paul Jackson, Jr. and a host of wonderful Nashville session players, will be released this holiday season. Davidsen has enjoyed his collaboration with producer Eric Copeland of Creative Soul Jazz. In a day where some smooth jazz is programmed, a distinctive of Drew's new music is a commitment to capturing the essence of jazz, having live musicians in a room together. Davidsen, whose first CD "This Journey" was offered in 2007, will also release his fourth studio CD in January 2011. Davidsen says the CD will show a deeper side to his playing.
Being a forward thinker, Davidsen has paired up with innovator Mark Payung, and is the # 1 endorsing artist for the unique new GlassTones guitars. For this new innovation, the strings vibrate between two points of highly dense silica material, similar to what astronauts' visors are made of. Unlike traditional guitars, everything the strings touch is essentially made of glass. This means that the sound is super-pure and has an extra long sustain. Some are calling it the most significant innovation in guitar manufacturing since Les Paul made them electric. Drew also enjoys playing his custom Brubaker guitar and his custom Ibanez archtop. A new endeavor is to explore the word of acoustic guitar. He is very thankful to Martin for his new Artist Series instrument.
For all his success, Davidsen came relatively late to the electric guitar, his instrument of choice. He dabbled in guitar as a youngster, but studied cello and went on to play bass in high school. He was 21 when he started taking the electric guitar seriously. Davidsen's musical epiphany occurred when he was in the Navy during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. When his ship docked in the Persian Gulf island country of Bahrain, Davidsen purchased an electric guitar and a small amp. His musical direction was due in part to jazz guitar icon George Benson. He recalls that a friend turned him on to Benson's "Breezin'," the huge crossover album that almost single-handedly helped create the smooth-contemporary jazz genre. Davidsen, an underwater weapons technician on the destroyer USS John Hancock, would put Benson's music in his cassette player and cut his teeth while transcribing solos. "What an incredible player," says Davidsen, who was also inspired to scat while listening to Benson. He soon drew crowds on board the Hancock who would turn out regularly to hear him play.
Davidsen's musical background includes a pop trio, ska band and an R&B group. In 1995, he joined Baltimore's Richard Walton Group - a contemporary jazz quintet - and was a member for 12 years. The band released a live CD recorded at the famed Blues Alley in Washington, DC. During his career, Davidsen has lent his skills to almost 30 recording projects. In 2008, he won the Momentum Award for Jazz Artist of the Year given by Indie Heaven, a Christian-music organization in Nashville. Shortly after that, Guitar Player Magazine named him one of its "ten hottest new guitarists."
"Around (Again)" reflects and expands on Davidsen's guitar influences, who in addition to Benson include Larry Carlton, Pat Metheny, and Lee Ritenour. Produced by keyboardist Eric Copeland, "Around (Again)" features Nashville session players and veteran smooth jazz stalwarts such as Jay Rowe and bassist Gerald Veasley. He wrote "Astro" in memory of his late father, Dr. Arthur F. Davidsen, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University who built and designed the NASA-funded Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT). The telescopes, called the Astro Observatory (http://praxis.pha.jhu.edu/hutastro2.html), first flew in December 1990 as the Astro-1 mission, and again in March 1995 as the Astro-2 mission. The telescope now hangs in the Air and Space Museum in the nation's capital.
When not working on music, Davidsen relaxes by fishing. He's also an avid bicyclist, and one year participated in the MS 150, riding over 100 miles to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It was biking that helped Davidsen achieve one of what he calls his greatest accomplishments - losing about 60 pounds and gaining stamina for his live shows, which have included the prestigious Catalina Island Jazz Trax Festival in Southern California and Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Davidsen regularly gives back to the community. He supports the charity Ghanaian Mothers' Hope, which builds schools, playgrounds and medical clinics in Ghana, West Africa. A percentage of his music sales goes toward this organization. Over the years his efforts have provided for desks and school books, medicines and medical equipment and sponsoring of children in a preschool and primary school in the village of Akramaman. For more information, go to www.gmhope.org.
This is so cool! I made the Top 10 in the readers choice poll.
This is so cool! I received a Momentum Award for jazz artist of the year at the 2009 Indie Heaven Summit. Thanks to everyone who supports my mission. Here are some pics from the Summit too. I was also asked to play. Thanks again Drew! :-)
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