Like the difference between network TV & HBO 

Frequent patrons of Jazz’d Tapas Bar have become accustomed to seeing quality live music in that hip, postmodern eatery beneath The Gap on Broughton Street. However, by and large, the music they catch several nights a week is of the local variety.

Oh sure, every once in a while they’ll bring in a blues band from Charleston, and one weekend they had two great Americana fusion bands from New Orleans: The Bluerunners and the Funky Meters’ core of Porter-Batiste-Stoltz.

But, in all fairness, that amazing two-nighter was held in tandem with last year’s Savannah Music Festival. So, it was surprising to hear they’d be presenting jazzy New York City trio Dave’s True Story.

Then again, why not? After all, any non-commercial, adult-oriented band that can sell upwards of 50,000 records based almost entirely on word of mouth and the legend of their live shows can certainly hold their own in a subterranean bar in the historic district.

Subterranean is actually a fairly apt description of the stealthy way in which these versatile and experienced musicians have carved out a niche. Over the course of a career that spans just over a decade, they’ve released four albums of intelligent, challenging pop music that draws on Latin rhythms, bebop, contemporary acoustic folk, cool jazz and the smokey vibe of the Beats to create the aural equivalent of a romantic tryst between Ken Nordine and Dar Williams.

Between songwriter (and former playwright) Dave Cantor’s sinewy guitar lines, Jeff Eyrich’s moody standup bass, and vocalist Kelly Flint’s smooth (and often sultry) tone, their work – at times dark and mysterious, at others light and airy – appeals to a wide swath of the listening public. Fans of the sort of clever, forward-thinking piano jazz typified by Norah Jones and Diana Krall will likely dig the band, as will folks who appreciate the detached irony and bewitching wordplay of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen.

It’s that intriguing dichotomy that has helped them to become one of the most talked about American indie groups in pop and jazz today.

Their latest LP, Nature, showcases Cantor’s witty and urbane flights of lyrical fancy, and seems destined to garner the band even more rave reviews than they have enjoyed in the past. The band knows they have a unique, esoteric thing going, and welcome that shift.

“Dave is a skilled and brilliant lyricist,” says Eyrich (himself a veteran producer, engineer and journeyman bassist who’s worked with everyone from Peter Case and Dave Alvin to John Cale). “His observations are intelligent and challenging, and nothing is ‘dumbed down’ or cliché. His writing is like the difference between network TV and HBO. Musically, we try not to make obvious choices, although sometimes, obvious is the best way to go.”

Eyrich is also quick to point out that while DTS draws on forms of music that have been around for decades, they are not an oldies act.

“We very consciously avoid anything to do with nostalgia, but we do feel that variation in approach, which may involve referencing an ‘older’ style. It keeps us fresh and allows us not to be pigeonholed. Too many people are programmed by the music industry to only accept one or two flavors from an artist. We find this too restrictive. Maybe to our detriment, but our audiences dig what we do. We’d prefer greater recognition, of course, but even if we could – and we can’t – we won’t alter what we do to achieve this.”

Eyrich says that those familiar with the band’s records (which often feature guest musicians) will be in for a pleasant surprise at this trio show.

“(It’s) more focused on the songs and Kelly as a performer and entertainer. If you have only heard our CDs, she’s really quite a firecracker onstage.”

Flint herself says she’s thrilled with the way DTS has been received - especially in Asia and Europe, where they’re much more famous than in the States.

“It’s great,” she offers. “In Holland I felt like Madonna after the shows! People lined up as far as I could see for autographs... it was cool.”

Both musicians say they’re excited at the prospect of playing Savannah, particularly Eyrich, who just finished reading a biography of our own Johnny Mercer.

And what’s next for Dave’s True Story?

Says Flint with a smile, “Again, the songs will determine that.”

Dave’s True Story plays 3 sets at Jazz’d Tapas Bar on Sunday night, starting at 7 pm. For more information, call 236-7777.


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Jim Reed

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