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Alana Davis: Can You Hear Me Now?

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There has to be a point where you have to have a little integrity about what you're doing.
Alana Davis is an enigma. Instantly timeless, powerful, necessary, somehow at once earthy and ethereal, tribal and post-modern; Aretha meets Norah Jones. But art is subjective, elusive, sometimes an acquired taste, and needs to be expressed, communicated and felt; sent and received. And for sure, you'll feel it on first listen.

As talented and original as she is, it's easy to Imagine the fast talking, transplanted Brooklynite serving any number of causes, besides her own musical calling, from those of the Earth to human rights. Those who don't know her or are aware of only her cover of the Ani DiFranco anthem, "32 Flavors"—eloquently expressing on an enriched heritage—are truly MIA. Along with an eclectic, maturing pop sensibility, she owes her formidable jazz pedigree to both her father Walter Davis Jr. who worked with Miles Davis (no relation), Charlie parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd and jazz chanteuse mother. What it all comes down to—the osmosis, growth, pain and release—is that Alana is an original in the making with much to say and soul to burn. She laughs easily, listens Intently, thinks quickly—often expressing via anecdotes—has a great sense of humor about life and clearly loves life. Growing up, Davis spent her time writing poetry, taking up guitar, songwriting and contending with racial and civil rights issues in school and beyond, which have only served to mold her aesthetics and enduring positive, survivor's nature into a voyage of self-discovery and a drive for connection and acceptance for all.

Her first album, Blame It on Me dared to deliver more hit material than contemporary pop albums are supposed to and became Time magazine's #3 CD of the year for '97. She then went on to join of the HORDE tour and later performed her version of CSN's "Carry On" for the 120 million watching the 2003 Superbowl (www.alanadavis.com for clips). Since then, she's had label issues that delayed "Fortune Cookies" and caused Davis to rethink distribution, label dependence and to create Tigress (Tigress/Telarc) records to distribute the just released Surrender Dorothy. Among the events on the album are a languid, moving rendition of Blue Oyster Cult's hit, "Don't Fear the Reaper" which sets the tone for another very personal journey. It's one of those tunes that not only bears repetition, but demands it. And she has this talent with both her own material and the selected covers she does: defines and redefines them and truly makes them hers. It's easy to imagine her doing this with almost any vehicle once you've heard "Reaper" and "Marley's "Nice Time" back to back. The well-enunciated artist is well supported by a dream team of NY's top sessionists comprised of guitarist Adam Rogers (with Norah Jones, Mike Brecker, Chris Potter), bassist Jack Daley (with Lenny Kravitz, Joss Stone, Everlast) and drummer Nir Z (with John Mayer, Genesis, Billy Squier).

Surrender Dorothy debuted at #7 on I-tunes, which has made Alana an exclusive track artist and she's also joined their celebrity playlist. A pre-tour, showcase gig supporting the new release took place February 24th at NYC's Canal Room as the tour comes together. If after hearing this incredibly sensual, smoky, sultry, soulful force and you don't want to take both her and the music home, you may want to check your pulse. You'll soon be hearing a lot more of this artist, and it's about time. Hey Alana, welcome back.

All About Jazz: So you're out in SoCal.?

Alana Davis: Yeah. Oh, It's beautiful. I'm In Venice today and I'm looking at the beach.

AAJ: Cool. I was out there In the Summer; it's beautiful. So are you on tour right now?

AD: No, not yet. I've got to put together a band and then, yeah. Then I'm hittin' the road and never comin' back.

AAJ: Never coming back (laughs). So, you're not using your recording band.

AD: No, I don't think so. Here and there where I can, but they stay pretty much busy all the time. So getting them to record is one thing but getting them to tour is kind of hard. I've got to think of everything on a different level. When I'm on tour I'm not a diva but I like to learn things, you know (laughs)? And these guys... and the music and the outline are coming from me. I kind of just want them to do their thing when I work with those guys. But hopefully, though, maybe a showcase here or there.

AAJ: Do you expect that when you'll get a new band that they'll just hit it right from the start or do you find it takes time to get it together?

AD: Oh yeah, you definitely get tighter and tighter the longer you go. I kind of wish I'd already put it together and now here I am trying to be a record company, too. So as much as I'd love to out all my energy into being a musician I've got to kind of switch back and forth, you know? But yeah, once we're on the road we'll get tighter and tighter as that's our Input, that's our focus. Once you know the arrangements you can forget the arrangements (laughs). So I think it'll be cool.


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