Davina and the Vagabonds

Some jazz and blues artists consider themselves lucky to get a gig at the Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival. In Davina And The Vagabonds case, they’ve managed to bag not one, not two, not three – but four performances at this year’s ten-day extravaganza.

Yes, folks, they are that popular. And if you’re not lucky, you might miss out on seeing the American jazz-blues outfit, as one of their gigs has sold out already. So what’s all the fuss about you may ask?

Led by cheeky bandleader, Davina Sowers – described as “the hardest-working blueswoman in frigid Minnesota” – the Vagabonds’ music is a colourful, dynamic throwback to the early 20th century jazz commonly associated with turbulent juke-joints. Nostalgic, vintage, whatever you want to call it – it’s danceable music that looks like it came straight off the rack from an Armstrong’s clothing emporium.jazz_festival_logo

Formed in 2006, it’s been a long way to the top for the 5-piece band, though. Averaging 300 gigs a year at one point, it wasn’t until a performance on Jools Holland’s Later TV show that The Vagabonds were truly propelled into the limelight. Before you knew it, everyone was swingin’ to their old-school vibe.

Talented musicians, for sure. The real magic, though, lies with Davina herself. A voluptuous, tattooed Betty Page type who often sports a Nora Batty-style headscarf and ‘breakfast-table-cloth’ dress, she can wail like an alley cat one minute, seduce you with her (think Cadbury’s Caramel bunny) soft singing voice the next. Undoubtedly soulful; nevertheless, you won’t find any Amy Winehouse or Adele comparisons here.

As the poster boys and girls for the Jazz and Blues Festival’s promotional campaign, one suspects the promoters are confident Davina And The Vagabonds are going to be a sure-fire hit.

You can be assured of a high-energy show, yet whether or not they can justify four concerts remains to be seen. This scribe, however, suspects they could sell out five shows.

Davina And The Vagabonds, Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival, Fri 17 July (Tron Kirk, 1.30pm; St Andrew Square Spiegeltent, 10pm), Sat 18 July (St Andrew Square Spiegeltent, 8pm), Sun19 July (Tron Kirk, 7.30pm), £10-£16.50,0131-473 2000

Main picture: Grinkie Girl Photography/Christie Williams

words: Barry Gordon