Davell Crawford was steeped in the New Orleans rhythm and blues tradition. It’s in his blood as a singer and keyboardist and has been the heart of his recordings until the latest project. The grandson of 1950s R&B star James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, the man who gave us “Jock-a-Mo”—the Mardi Gras anthem better known today as “Iko Iko”— Davell says it was time for a change. “I never wanted to do the New Orleans music forever,” he says. “I had to work, and playing it opened a lot of doors for me in Europe. I worked a helluva lot. But it is a lot of energy to scream at the top of your lungs and sing rhythm and blues night after night after night. I was looking for something mellower to do.”
Crawford has followed his 1995 Rounder debut Let Them Talk and 1997’s The B-3 and Me with Love like Yours and Mine on Rounder’s Bullseye Blues & Jazz imprint. Though his R&B roots and deep gospel feel remain in the picture, it presents Crawford the jazz ballad singer and player.
“I loved jazz in a very strong way since I first heard Sarah Vaughan when I was in the 9th grade. I still have that feeling,” Crawford says. “But I never want to put too much emphasis on what style I’m singing or whether I’m playing piano or B-3. My focal point is the song… and what I can do with it.”
His soulful voice serves him well in this fresh context, blending original material and re-arrangements of standard fare that ranges from “Fly Me to the Moon” to “Home” from Broadway’
The Wiz and even Lennon-McCartney’s “Let It Be,” which a young Davell first heard on record by Ray Charles, not The Beatles.
Crawford says he is anxious to dig deeper into jazz and then explore other territory, including Brazilian music. “These days it is harder for fans to follow you,” he says. “You have to feed them slowly and bring them along.”