Anyone who loves traditional blues should be looking forward to March 1, when Guy Davis, “The Ambassador of the Blues,” plays at Sumner Hall. Davis’s show, “On the Road with Blues and Songster Ramblings,” is part of Sumner Hall’s concert series, “African American Legacy & Heritage in Jazz, Blues & Gospel.” The series, featuring local and nationally-known performers, is produced by Tom McHugh, well known for his work at the Mainstay in Rock Hall.
Davis and McHugh go back a long way. They first met when McHugh was teaching a course in African American music at Vassar College and asked Davis to demonstrate slide guitar to his class. Since McHugh’s move to Kent County, Davis has performed here a number of times, including the first Riverside Blues Festival, several appearances at the Mainstay, and a memorable duo concert with guitarist Reggie Harris at Sumner Hall.
Davis, the son of the late actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, is self-taught on guitar. He picked up tips for listening to and watching other musicians, including a nine-fingered guitarist who taught him finger-picking during a long train ride. He also plays 5-string banjo, which he learned at a music summer camp, and harmonica. Not surprisingly, he has also followed his parents into acting, including a role as legendary Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson in an off-Broadway production.
But as the concert title suggests, Davis’s reach extends beyond the blues, including ragtime tunes, New Orleans jazz sounds, fife-and-drum pieces, folk music – and always something to “make you want to dance.” Don’t be surprised if he includes a tune or two from the repertoire of Pete Seeger, one of his mentors and a strong influence. You can hear Davis’s music on over a dozen albums, most recently “Sonny & Terry’s Last Train,” a tribute to the late blues masters Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Davis credits Terry as his main influence on harmonica.
The Sumner Hall performance begins at 7 p.m. Due to limited space, reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets are available on EventBrite, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 443-282-0023. Admission is $20.