Rooster Davis will be heating up winter with the spirit of New Orleans to Lethbridge tonight when he plays the Slice with vocalist Ann Vriend, drummer Chris Budnarchuk and trombonist Brad Shigeta, who used to play with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
“When I found him two and a half years ago, I fired my band and rebuilt around them. Well, I didn’t fire them, I just didn’t call them. They didn’t have the sound I was looking for,” said Rooster Davis, a.k.a. David Aide. “He used to play with the Duke Ellington Orchestra which is run by his (Duke Ellington’s) grandson. They’ve passed it down through the family,” he said.
“I met him (Shigeta) at a gig in Grande Prairie. He’d just moved back. He was playing in Dave Babcock’s band. I could tell when I heard him that I wanted to learn from him,” he said.
Aide, who has been playing for 20 years, since graduating from Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton, is influenced by a lot of New Orleans jazz from 1950-90.
“It’s based on a very driven left hand which gets closer to finding that sound,” he said.
Discovering Dr. John while attending Grant MacEwan College inspired Aide.
“I was struggling to find my sound while I was at Grant MacEwan. He made these songs with very few chords. I had to figure out what he was doing,” he said, adding his music has a lot of rhythm-based chords, melodies and the left hand takes the place of the bass.
“As soon as I heard Dr. John, it was so cool. It just made sense I just had to figure out what he was doing,” he said.
“New Orleans has a lot of piano-based groups instead of relying on a guitar. So the music centres around the piano. I don’t even have to have a guitar player in the band,” said Aide, who also plays with a lot of other musicians including country star Adam Gregory, for whom Aide is the musical director. As Gregory is on hiatus, writing a new CD with Aide and the band, it frees Aide up to tour as Rooster Davis.
“I’ve spent more time touring as Rooster Davis than I have with Adam Gregory this year,” he said.
He noted major label stars don’t tour unless they have a new record out to promote.
“Or else they play a few times a year just to keep their name out there,” he said. He noted Gregory lost his record deal, so he and his band are deciding which direction to take their next album.
“He’s been writing songs. We’re trying to decide how to release a new album. Things just ended in Nashville for him. He lost his record deal through management issues. Things just fell apart and no fault of his own,” he said.
“The band even moved to Nashville, but we had to come back and start over,” he said.
While most musicians in Nashville use Nashville studio pros on their album, Aide said he hopes the new Adam Gregory album will feature the touring band.
In the meantime, Aide travelled to Europe with Gregory and again with Ann Vriend and just returned from his own tour of Europe as Rooster Davis.
“It was great. We were playing a lot of little blues juke joints. There was so much energy in the audience,” he enthused, adding a lot of the venues they played in Europe reminded him of some of his favourite Alberta haunts like Mikey’s Juke Joint in Calgary and the Commercial Hotel in Edmonton.
He is excited about coming to Lethbridge with his own show as he has played Lethbridge with different people including James Murdoch, Jack Marks and Ann Vriend.
“A lot of the people I have played with come from a more heartfelt place. My music is just fun. My music is more blues than it is jazz.”
He has only released one CD as Rooster Davis — a Christmas album, featuring unusual and tongue-in-cheek arrangements of popular Christmas songs as well as his own.
“We want to put on a show where people can’t believe how much fun they are having,” said Aide.
“This is not a cerebral jazz show. This is a show that appeals to your soul and your body.
“This is just fun,” he described, adding the set will include a lot of jazz standards from the likes of Professor Longhair and one of Aide’s idols Dr. John.
“It is a lot of fun. It is somewhere between Professor Longhair and Dr. John. It’s that New Orleans sound. People recognize it,” he said.