Chicago’s own J. Davis Trio aren’t out to change the world, nor are they out to be the most prolific rap group of all time, nor are they household names across the land. The phrase that best epitomizes their career AND their style to date is “quietly good.” They don’t make a whole lot of noise figuratively or literally, but since 2002 they’ve been doing laid back hip-hop jazz that has won a lot of converts to their sound. Imagine if GangStarr, The Roots and Aceyalone all got dumped into a blender along with a couple of bottles of cough syrup. Set on puree and you’ve got the J. Davis Trio – mellow, slow, smooth and a little bit of a trip.
“We want to personally thank you for comin to the show
Everything we do is cause the people made us so
We can plant the seed, but you gotta let it grow
A lot of flakes in the city but not talkin ’bout the snow
who never follow through upon the shit that they begun
We kick only truth, never kickin the fiction
And even though the paper is important to the run
The J-D-T be still doin this shit for fun”
The JDTeez are vocalist/percussionist Stuart, bass player Flav-R-Ice, trumpets by Benjamin Pendulum and drums by The Planet. The name makes me picture a someone the size of Brainkrieg’s percussionist rocking the beats, but if that’s the case I say “go big man go.” While he won’t ever have the reputation of ?uestlove, his work on “These Things Happen” doesn’t disappoint nor does the rest of the band. There are only 12 songs on their third album, but for a band with such a minimal output they definitely live up to the “less is more” philosophy. Take the third song “Breezay” for example – a track on which Stuart brags “it ought to be a crime because we do it so easy.” I would dispute that assertion because this song is quite complex. Nothing seems easy about the perfectly timed vibraphone notes, the percussive snap that comes in every four bars, the horny horns of the chorus or the cool out flow Stuart shows on the beat. A whole lot of meticulous planning went into making this song so mellow and relaxing, and it works delightfully well.
JDT are so unassuming and understated you might actually mistake the cameo appearances listed on the back cover as overshadowing them – O Type Star, Paul Mertens, Susan Voelz and Lunchbox Law among others. JDT’s vibe and musical direction is so strong though that the guests blend into the songs instead of taking them over, even on a posse-all-in rap song like “The Stony Island Union.” Voelz in particular is what Fergie would be to the Black Eyed Peas if she wasn’t (intentionally or otherwise) overshadowing her bandmates – beautiful and soulful vocal support, most notably on “This Again.” Another mellow thing about JDT is the length of the songs on “These Things Happen” – most tracks clocking at well over 240 seconds. You probably ought to light the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of wine and kick back on the couch while listening to the J. Davis Trio. No couch? No fireplace? Go see them live then – they’ve performed with everyone from Talib Kweli to Shinehead. Don’t expect to jump around like a malt-soaked frat jam or throw your hands in the air to buck buck like you don’t care in the dirtiest underground club. If you’ve had a rough day at work, you can either feel better by getting as rowdy as M.O.P. or you can let the the Trio take the edge off the harshness of reality. Either one works, neither is better than the other, and both are equally relevant. Feel the breeze with the JDTeez.