Davina was here. She arrived by bus with her husband Zach and three other guys called the Vagabonds. No, not the 1960s group from Jamaica (Jimmy James), but Davina and the Vagabonds from Twin Cities, Minnesota. Blues and Jazz or bluesy Jazz, both covers and originals. Davina appears on several albums, but the band has at least six albums, one of them is a double, and one, Black Cloud (2011), was recorded live at Daryl’s House in Pawling. She and the band had shaken up Pawling before. Davina is comfortable with shaking things up.
They opened with Louie Jordan’s classic “Come home baby” a million-seller cut, but you may be more familiar with Jordan’s late hit “Rock Around the Clock.” The make up of Davina and the Vagabonds resembles Jordan’s Tympany Five bands with piano, bass, horns, and drums. That door knock in the song doesn’t happen, but that number accelerated with drive and passion from the lips of Davina. They like the New Orleans sound: “Bourbon Street Parade” was next with Matt Hanzelka on trumpet and Zach on trumpet, both trying to blast me out of my seat as I was up front. The fanfare was here. I like being cornered by two trumpets.
“Pocket,” an original, appears on their New Orleans inflected album[S1] Nicollet and Tenth (2016) with simple, heartfelt lyrics that Divina sang with loving emotion. Another original, “Daydream,” was from Live @ The Times (2008), artfully bringing the mood down to wistful melancholy. “You’re Breaking My Heart” is a 1949 Fats Domino hit that the band covered with class; Davina on Yamaha keyboard assaulted those keys which surrendered with rhythmic shout. Davina was dancing in a waterfall of pounding notes.
Everyone loves “Shake that Thing,” a 1925 stomping classic by Papa Charlie Jackson and the audience sang along at the refrain. (Also on Nicollet and Tenth). I was not familiar with the romantic repentance of “Yes, I know it,” yet their original “Monday Date” (from Live @ The Times) floored me with its arrangement and the performance of Matt Hanzelka on trombone and Zack Lozier on trumpet as Chris Bates on bass thumped out a hurricane.
During the break Davini hung around to take requests, displaying the sassy confidence she has from playing piano since she was six. They opened with Fats Wallers “The Red Shoes,” which ended up in the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, for which Fats wrote the title tune. Davini was electric and fluid on keyboard. Davina then sang divinely “You Must Be Losing Your Mind,” another Fats Waller song, covered in their album Sunshine (2014).
In “Beat Street” Hanzelka and Lozier soared once more with hot horns while Chris Bates delivered a thrilling solo. “Four or Five Times” was a hit by Sister Rosetta Tharpe which found a revival atmosphere as the audience sang the refrain of this jazzed waltz in 4/fast 5 time. “I’d rather go blind” by Etta James came close to voicing the power of Etta, yet Davina’s original “Start Running” delivered the signature of her own original raw power. Ditto another original, “St. Michael and the Dragon” (from Live @ The Times) which was delicious with humor in the old Manichean folk manner.
“Disappears” (from Black Cloud) once more showed off the blazing trumpets which then disappeared offstage to let Bates’ bass solo and along with George Marich’s drums. The horns returned for the Hank Williams classic “Hey, Good Lookin’” before they abled into “Saint James Infirmary,” the origins of which remain clouded, yet it remains a great New Orleans marching classic. That was the band’s finale, yet they re-appeared for an encore of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald.
Davina and the Vagabonds are a tight, taut band. They appear to have a large repertoire of blues, jazz, and folk music, plus their own originals that can stand with comparison. Davina invited me to join the band’s ride back to Minnesota the next morning if only I would take a night shift at the wheel, but tempting as that was, I had this review to write and my own Ithaka to return to. A video of them in an underground cave appears below.