Davina & the Vagabonds – Oddbody’s, Dayton, OH – July, 17, 2017

A little bit of New Orleans by way of Minnesota arrived in Dayton Saturday night in the form of Davina & the Vagabonds, bringing their-juiced up blend of jazz & blues to Oddbody’s. Led by singer/pianist Davina Sowers, who possesses a monster of a voice capable of incredible range and depth, she was flanked by trumpet, trombone, standup bass and drums.

A cover of Louis Jordan’s jump blues’ “Knock Me a Kiss” got things rolling, allowing Sowers to inject plenty of humor in the proceedings right from the git go. Things immediately got darker with their original “Black Cloud” (title cut off their fantastic 2011 CD), before again switching gears for the decidedly more rosy “Sunshine” (title cut off their followup, from 2014).

She also gave room for the other members to shine, handing the vocals over to her trombonist for “Down on Bourbon Street,” while her husband played some insanely fast trumpet on “Louisiana Fairytale.”

She also put ample focus on her more melodic originals like the bouncy “Pocket,” and the sweet “Sugar Moon.” She took center stage and picked up a ukulele for “Bee Sting,” an original which sounded like it could’ve come from the 1920’s. The surprise of the evening came during a rockin’ Chuck Berry cover, “Back to Memphis,” where Sowers really showed off a rasp in her voice that proved that she could handle other styles equally well.

The main set ended with the furious “St. James’ Infirmary,” with the horns blasting at lightning speed, one of many goose-bump-inducing moments during the show. They encored with a Bourbon Street take on Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’.”

The Nicky Kay Orchestra opened with an all-instrumental set, which featured everything from surf to spaghetti western music. Leader Nick Kizirnis pulled out his Theremin for several songs, getting it to squeal and squawk to great effect on their closing number.

Although I’d seen too many shows to count in that building when it was known as McGuffeys, this was the first time I took in a show at Oddbody’s. I have to say I was impressed all around. The improvements have opened up with stage area, allowed for more un-obstructed view of the performers, and better acoustics than before. This is the kind of larger venue that is badly needed in the Dayton area. Hopefully this can continue to grow in reputation.

If you missed the show, Davina & Co will be back in the area for two concerts in August: The Cincinnati Blues Festival on August 11th, and Natalies Coal Fired Pizza in Worthington on August 12th. Davina & the Vagabonds provide a high energy set that’s heavy on old school jazz and blues, and not to be missed. —Tony Peters