David P. Stevens: From Philly with love

October 12, 2015

Most contemporary urban jazz artists take a few years off between albums these days, but multi-talented composer and guitarist David P. Stevens, true to the name of his critically acclaimed 2013 album, had an Epiphany right after its release. The versatile artist who headlined alongside stars Najee, Jeff Lorber, Rick Braun, Phil Perry and Alex Bugnon on the 2013 Capital Jazz SuperCruise, was excited by the opportunity to jam on that album with guests Gerald Albright, Gerald Veasley, Frank McComb, Carol Riddick and Elan Trotman. Truly inspired by the experience and emboldened by his success as an emerging artist in the genre, Stevens immediately returned to the studio to write and produce “Mr. Guitar,” a masterwork that tells the extraordinary story of his multi-faceted musical life over the course of 11 tracks.

Rather than take the usual indie artist approach and ask various superstars to join in the fun, Stevens surrounds his crisp, jazzy electric guitar lines and infectious melodies with dynamic production values (including his own exciting vocals and scatting), inviting some of smooth jazz’ top emerging independent artists to the emerging independent artists to the fold. “One For Grover,” the guitarist’s fluid and funky tribute tune to legendary saxman and fellow Philadelphia native Grover Washington, Jr. finds Stevens vibing with another Philly guy, saxman Andrew Neu; the track was recently the most-added new single on the BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) Smooth Jazz chart. Other featured artists include saxophonists Elan Trotman and Jeanette Harris, keyboardist Gail Jhonson and famed neo-soul artist Jaguar Wright.

Adding touches of humor and emotional depth to a collection that tells Steven’s story with a mix of jazz, R&B, gospel, rock and world music, the guitarist starts Mr. Guitar with an electronic DJ cleverly telling us to listen loud with our headphones, and later includes an inspirational moment featuring his young son and daughter (“A Child’s Heart”) and a hilarious conversation about Fans with comedian Chase Lamar Smith.

Stevens grew up playing gospel music in church and as he developed as a guitarist, was a fan of everything from R&B and rock to jazz fusion and George Benson-styled R&B/jazz. When he saw Norman Brown perform a local gig in the early ‘90s when he was first emerging as a force in urban jazz – firing up the crowd with his natural charisma and rock star presence - Stevens was hooked. From then on, he worked toward developing his own solo career.

“The songs on ‘Mr. Guitar’ tell the story of my influences and who I am as an artist, like a compilation of original songs that incorporate all of the different things that impacted my evolution as a musician and artist,” says Stevens. “If it were prose, it would tell the story of a young guy growing up in Philly playing in jazz and gospel bands, following his guitar teacher around to his studio sessions, observing some amazing recorded performances and always carrying around his guitar, daydreaming in class about someday doing exactly what I am blessed to do now.”

On Stage

A versatile musician, Stevens grew up playing piano, drums and guitar at the Church of God, developing a dynamic performance style playing gospel music.

He spent his teens playing in jazz and gospel bands, and developed sound and stage presence like one of his idols, Norman Brown. As his fan base grew with his early album releases, Stevens went from playing “any dive bar where they allowed jazz” in Philly to top clubs like North By Northwest, Warm Daddy’s and Relish.

Stevens has also performed at The Harlem Meer Festival, at The Iridium in NYC with Alex Bugnon, and the Jazz Base in Reading, PA. In addition to playing on the Capital Jazz SuperCruise, he has been part of the All-Star Jam Festival at Berks Jazz Fest the past three years, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Gerald Albright, Nick Colionne and Scott Ambush from Spyrogyra. “One of the things I’m known for live is bringing a lot of energy to the stage and incorporating many exciting elements, including background singers,” Stevens says.

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