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John Daversa: Kaleidoscope Eyes

Paul Naser By

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Internationally renowned performer, composer, arranger, band leader, teacher; John Daversa's talents include these among many others. His in demand skills as a world-class trumpet player have led him to perform on such prestigious stages as the Monterey Jazz, Montreal Jazz and Montreux Festivals, on such well known American programs as Late Nite with David Letterman and The Oprah Winfrey Show and with incredible performers such as Fiona Apple, Michael Buble, Dori Caymmi and The Yellowjackets. In addition to this impressive list, Daversa recently became Department Chair of Studio Music and Jazz at the Frost School of Music, University of Miami.

With this move came new, exciting opportunities for Daversa and his Progressive Big and Small Bands. Already beloved in L.A. from his longtime residency at the Baked Potato, the John Daversa Progressive Big Band has been reincarnated in New York featuring such contemporary icons as Ben Wendel and Donny McCaslin, as well as legends like Marvin Stamm, and his small band has featured the likes of David Binney and Adam Rogers. It is no surprise that amongst all these exciting changes, John became inspired to put together a new record of big band music that features the music of The Beatles. His fearless creativity and one of a kind spirit make his unique take on the classic repertoire one of the new year's most exciting projects.

All About Jazz: What inspired this new project?

John Daversa: Well, so many things. The first seed of it was a friend of mine, who has been a fan of the big band for a long time, he used to come down to the Baked Potato when we played once a month, he and his business partner bought the licenses for a few of the early Beatles tunes, and he called me up and said "Hey John, can you write an arrangement of one of these Beatles tunes? I would love to place one of these songs in television or film." I said "Well, I'd love to, but I'd want to do it in my own way," and he said "Yeah, of course! I'd want you to do it your way," and I started thinking: well, how much fun would it be to do a full record of Beatles songs re-imagined in our band's style and personality.? I got excited about that and so the seed of the idea was there.

It led me to think, too, that when our first record, Junkwagon (BFM Jazz 2011) went out and no one really knew my name outside of Los Angeles and so it went out to all the reviewers, all the magazines and all the newspapers and probably one percent of those people actually picked it up and were interested in actually listening to it. Those on percent really loved it, but we weren't getting to everybody. then the second record came out, Artful Joy (BFM Jazz 2012), and it went out to all the same people and maybe ten percent of the people listened to that because they had heard the good news about the first one, and it made it into Downbeat, JazzTimes, Jazziz and all those, "Jazzy" places, and I thought well maybe now is a good time to combine forces with people that have been in the jazz world who have started to hear about what we're doing with the big band and it might pique their curiosity even more if it's repertoire that we all love and grew up with: The Beatles' repertoire. It seemed like a good time to do that, too.

AAJ: I read in an interview that you didn't actually grow up with The Beatles, that their catalogue was something you started to check out later in life.

JD: Yeah, it's true, I really didn't know the full catalogue until I started researching and investigating for this project. I grew up with Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson and Chopin and Beethoven and Willie Nelson and The Beach Boys, and just about everybody else but the Beatles. They just weren't in my household as much. I mean, there's certain things that we all hear, but not the full catalogue. It was so much fun this past year, especially this summer when I had more time, I listened to all the records with headphones and really got into the sound design, and the lyrics! -Oh, John Lennon's lyrics are just devastatingly deep. Paul McCartney's melodies -it's just amazing music! I'm not saying anything that anybody doesn't know (laughs), but I was able to fall in love with it all on my own.

I also read every article and checked out every video interview I could find on YouTube, and I just had a lot of fun following their personalities and their musical tendencies. I was more interested in trying to understand how they wrote and how they viewed music and their integrity for the music that they were writing. I learned so much and I had so much fun understanding these four personalities and how that perfect storm of a less than ten year period was for them-to write all that music and perform it all in the way that it was. It was just a perfect happening.

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