Tony Davis ‘Golden Year’ CD (Posi-Tone) 4/5

“Golden Year” is the excellent debut album from young American guitarist/composer Tony Davis. Born and raised by his musical parents, trombonist Steve Davis and pianist/composer Mary Di-Paola, he has been surrounded by the sounds of a myriad of genres his entire life. Having played piano, several brass instruments and bass, it wasn’t till the age of 14 that he first picked up a guitar. After coming upon the music of such iconic blues men as Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy and Jimi Hendrix, Davis knew that he had begun the journey to finding his own musical identity.

Fast-forward a decade or so and here we have Davis showcasing his talents on this 11 track album, made up mostly of original compositions. “2019 was my golden year” says the guitarist. “June 25th 2019, 25 at 25. The album embodies the meaning of a golden year for me. An album of original music that was created with my mentors, friends and family who have helped me get this far.” This sentiment runs through the entire recording. There’s a lovely warmth to the music being made, with obvious respect and a healthy amount of soulful passion.

One of the things I love about this album is that nothing sounds forced. For a debut recording, it’s refreshing to hear music performed with such skill and humility. Despite his relatively young age, Davis writes and plays with a maturity that belies his years. It’s like he’s got nothing to prove, and the whole session benefits from a natural, collective spirit from everyone involved.

Joining Davis on guitar are David Bryant on piano, Dezron Douglas on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. There are also guest appearances from Steve Davis on trombone, Steve Wilson on alto sax and flute, JK Kim on drums and Alina Engibaryan on vocals.

Much of this album sounds like a proper good old-school jazz album like something you might have heard in years gone by. Yet it has a 21st Century edge to it that blends nicely with the historical references it evokes. As soon as the title track and album opener “Golden Year” springs into life, I’m thinking of a couple of the jazz greats, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. Davis’ sound and style vary as the session progresses, but there’s always that wonderful underlying sense of tradition that rings true. The title track itself is superb, and along with “Braeburn”, “Night Ride” and “Hypnagogia” we are hearing a guitarist drawing on the great traditions of jazz guitar, whilst bringing his own compelling style the listener’s ear. “May This Be Love” is a gorgeous take on a lesser-known Jimi Hendrix tune. Performed here, it sounds more like a gentle Metheny/Mays piece and works especially well with guitar and piano playing off each other. There are two vocal tracks on the album, the exquisite “Orange Feathers” and the enticing “Lake Sebago”. Both tunes have a lovely laid-back Sunday afternoon feel to them. Other highlights include the melodious, flute-led piece “Sinha” and the gorgeous solo guitar of the closing track “Tua Imagem”.

“Golden Year” is a memorable debut from Tony Davis. With writing and performing as well as this, I think it’s fair to say that this won’t by any means be the guitarist’s only golden year, just one of many that lie ahead for this talented and very promising musician.

Mike Gates