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Davina and the Vagabonds bring their magic to Missoula

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Davina and the Vagabonds brought their magic to Missoula with an amazing show at the Missoula Winery, sponsored by Tara Shisler and Dan Torti of Stonefly Productions as part of their Rhythm and Wine Sessions series.

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Shisler is also responsible for the Zoo Music Awards, which will be presented at the Wilma Theatre on March 8.

Despite the weather, and the competing awards presentation and jazz show honoring the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Winery was filled with music and wine afficionados. Kicking things off was the music of Leif Christian, creator of the Montana Musicians and Artists Coalition.

Christian has an amazing sound somewhere between John Mayer and Tony Lucca. He has a wonderful finger style of picking that brings out the full measure of his music. His lyrics were profound and his voice was like melted honey butter. The Winery was the perfect setting for his music, which went well with the exquisite wine. I was truly impressed with his blues song Six Feet Above the Ground, as well as his unnamed new song inspired by a day hike at Yellowstone Park. Combining his songs with a witty selection of anecdotes, Christian mesmerized the crowd and prepared them for the headliner, just like a great opening act does.

Speaking of the headliner, Davina and the Vagabonds are natives of Minneapolis, and previously brought down the house at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Combining a sweet mixture of jazz and blues standards, jazz and blues originals, and their own organic roots brand of music, they took the audience on an incredible journey through New Orleans and the Southland that ended much too soon.

Davina is a gifted pianist, with a stage presence that reminded me of Lucille Ball. The Vagabonds featured trumpet, trombone, upright bass and drums, and all but the bass player also contributed exceptional lead vocals. My favorite moments were the drummer's version of a Louis Armstrong classic, and Davina's takes on classic Etta James and Fats Domino tunes.

The band is composed of Davina Sowers on lead vocals and piano, Dan Eikmeier on trumpet and vocals, Ben Link on trombone and vocals, Connor McRae on drums and vocals and Andrew Burns on upright bass.

The band also turned in some amazing original tunes, such as the title track from their new CD Sunshine, Throw it to the Wolves for Love and Black Cloud (title track of their latest CD), which will surely become jazz standards themselves.

Although I had never heard them before, I am now a true fan. Thanks so much to Shisler and Torti for their hospitality and to the Winery's Frenchie for making the evening perfect.

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