John Daversa’s resume is a mile long for his trumpet playing alone. But even if he were never to pick up the instrument again, his eclectic and witty compositions would still make him an aggressively original voice. For over 15 years, Daversa was a mainstay of the L.A. jazz scene, leading his Progressive Big Band and small group, teaching at area colleges, and playing on film soundtracks and with pop artists ranging from Fiona Apple to Michael Bublé (you might also recognize his playing from the Key and Peele sketch “Jazz Duel”). His Big Band had a regular gig at The Baked Potato in Studio City, where Chris Barton of the LA Times praised Daversa’s “adventurous, colorful approach.”
Daversa recently took a position at the University of Miami, where he now heads the Studio Music and Jazz program. But even though his academic duties have ramped up, the trumpeter/composer has embarked on one of his most ambitious projects to date: a PledgeMusic campaign for his newest album, Kaleidoscope Eyes, which will feature Beatles songs arranged for the Daversa Big Band.
This Saturday, December 6th, 2014, Daversa will be bringing several of these freshly arranged Beatles tunes to the Gallery, but he won’t be bringing the band, which is still based in L.A. Instead, he’ll be bringing a new iteration of the ensemble, which features a who’s who of East Coast veterans, including Donny McCaslin, David Binney, and Brian Lynch. When we caught up with him, the trumpeter had just returned to Miami from Tokyo, where he’d been performing with the Bob Mintzer Big Band.
The Jazz Gallery: How does it feel to be in Miami after so many years in L.A.?
John Daversa: I love Miami. I really feel healthy here, and the school is just an incredible place to work. The students are at such a high level and the faculty is very special, and there are all kinds of great events going on there every day. I feel like I’m still in L.A., to be honest; I’m there at least once a month performing.
That’s always the hardest part: being removed from your friends. You know, you grow up with those people. The musicians I miss terribly, but I’m able to see them and make music often enough. I probably see them about as much as I did when I lived there.
TJG: Where are you performing most often with your own bands?
JD: I’m traveling all over the place now—more than I had ever before. With my own groups, the big band is nearly impossible to travel with because of the expense, so I’ve been playing with that band about once a month in L.A. because we’re preparing for our new record.
But that’s also given me the opportunity to compose a big band in New York with a whole different family of friends, which I’m really enjoying. So we’ve been doing that for about a year in New York now. And then my small band travels; we’ve been touring around a little bit.