Story and Photos By D. L. White
A proverbial saying states: “The stars come out at night.”
Well, that statement can also reference dynamic and unique talent that shines exceptionally bright day or night. One such ‘star on the rise.” is Julian Davis, a remarkably gifted certainly on the rise.
On Saturday, Jan.14, from 1-2:35pm, young Mr. Davis, with the assistance of his nifty chromatic harmonica, put on a one man performance for the ages, leaving the enthusiastic listeners on the eastside grassy knoll of the Herberger Theatre thirsting for more.
Davis played a wide range of selections from Chick Chorea, to the sounds of Motown, a few Beyoncé pieces, some way back harmonica players, such as Toots Thieleman, Larry Adler, and his mentor and the person he was inspired by the most: the iconic multiple Grammy winning Stevie Wonder.
Between selections, Davis shared his background and how he became interested in the harmonica (which is often referred to as a “mouth organ,” “French harp” and small wind saxophone). The instrument is believed to have first been created by German craftsman Christian Bauschmann, in 1822. The harmonica became more and more poplar in Western Civilization as more Germans began migrating to the U.S.
“I was gifted a small scale harmonica when I was six years old,” Davis said. “I later began listening to Stevie Wonder and learned he (Stevie) played a Chromatic harmonica at that.I begged and begged my parents for a chromatic harmonica. Finally on my birthday, a holiday, or maybe it was a just because you’ve been asking for so long gift to stop asking, I finally was gifted a chromatic harmonica.
Davis went on to explain the unique nature of a chromatic harmonica that has a button that activates a sliding bar to redirect air from the hole in the mouthpiece to the selected reed plate desired. When the button is not pressed, an altered diatonic major scale is available making the instrument capable of obtaining the 12 notes of the western chromatic scale, adding to the instruments versatility.
Over the years, Davis has mastered this instrument much like legendary harmonica players Bob Dylan, Wonder and other legendary greats.
“We were rained out the first date we had for Julian to perform a pop-up concert,” noted Cescily Washington Wiener, director of community engagement at the downtown Herberger Theater.
“My background is in dance, performing. I actually started here in Phoenix and participated in the NAACP’s ACT-So Program. It was a great launching pad for me. I went to college and performed in a number of venues before returning home. It was a pleasure having Julian and he is welcome here anytime.”
As Davis played popular hit after hit, those assembled on a crisp, cloudy overcast day could not restrain themselves; hey did not have to, as many transformed the grassy knoll into a makeshift dance floor and let the musical vibe move them. Davis’ parents Dr. Olga Davis, ASU dean of Barrett’s Honors College, and Freeman Davis, a graduate the Julliard School for Performing Arts, were in attendance, as well as family from California and one of the artist’s early mentors, Mike Anderson, who tutored a much younger Davis.
The Herberger Pop-Up Concert series features outstanding rising talent performing on the grassy knoll when whether permits or inside the magnificent structure. For information on the series or for other Herberger performance information call 602-254-7399 ext106.