RHASPSODY IN ‘WONDER LAND’

B.K. Davis to perform a Stevie Wonder tribute concert Friday at Coralville Center for the Performing Arts.

To say B.K. Davis loves music is a superb understatement.

Talking about Stevie Wonder, music, and composition, he spoke with a passionate rhythm that bounced and swayed with all the power of the songs in question. At one point during our interview, he actually sprung into a few lines of “Isn’t She Lovely.”

“[Watching him is] like watching a scientist putting together an experiment,” said Rasheen Davis, who is married to the musician. “He always ends up giving me some sort of learning experience. He’ll notice me watching, and he’ll start explaining things. Every time he practices and performs, he’s always teaching me something.”

Though the audience members will not have the private purview afforded to Rasheen Davis, they will have the opportunity to soak in the sound of the polished product. The Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St., has made B.K. Davis available on its stage at 7 p.m. Friday for a 90-minute Stevie Wonder tribute.

“There are things in Stevie Wonder’s music that are classical, thing that clash and have this funky sound that really works even if you’ve never heard it before,” B.K. Davis said. “He’s like a modern Mozart.”

Davis is a Steinway International Artist, a title bestowed on pianists with impressive bodies of work. Composing a piece that was performed by a 150-member choir under his direction at age 13 was likely one of the first signs of such musical aptitude. Many would recognize names of others who share the title, such as Diana Krall and Billy Joel.

“He’s not only a really fabulous performer, he’s also bigger than life as a musician,” said Evan Hilsabeck, the managing director at the Coraliville Arts Center. “I hope there are people dancing in the aisles.”

Both Davis and his wife struggled to pinpoint exactly when they each fell in love with the songs of Wonder. Rasheen Davis supposes her passion for music partially stems from an upbringing in Philadelphia.

B.K. Davis traced his affection back to summers in the 1960s when he was 10 years old, catching buses to the local swimming pool.

“The hits of the day would always be playing,” he said. “There was this blind genius who could just do anything with music. He was always on the radio, he was always in the top 20, he was always playing.”

To construct a tribute to a body of art as rich as Wonder’s, Davis reflected on his own life and the songs that were pivotal to him.

“To reinterpret a piece, you play with it,” Davis said. “You speed it up and slow it down, depending on what you do, you could make it sound like a Baptist hymn or a Jamaican ballet. Music is like water; it’s very easy to move it the way you want. You’ve got 88 keys to work with and a wealth of potential.”

Performing musical milestones such as “She Knocks Me Off My Feet” and “Over Joyed,” Davis plans to display a practiced balance between imitation and innovation.

“When I perform, I stay true to the spirit of the music while still adding to it,” Davis said. “I would rather be a trailblazer in music than simply walk in trails blazed by others.”

A Steinway Model B piano waits on stage for Friday night, when Davis will wed sound and skill. He describes playing the instrument as “the same as traveling an 88-star constellation.”

“Stevie Wonder is one of the most amazing artists of all time, and B.K. Davis does his music justice,” Rasheen Davis said. “You think ‘No one can do that song like Stevie Wonder,’ and you’re right. But he doesn’t do it like Stevie Wonder. You recognize it’s a Stevie Wonder composition, but you also enjoy [Davis’s] delivery. It’s a treat — no — a double-treat.”

MUSIC
What: B.K. Davis, Stevie Wonder Tribute Performance
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, 1301 Fifth St.
Admission: $14-$18

 

Read original article: click here from The Daily Iowan | Newspaper, Online, and Television
By Isaac Hamlet
isaac-hamlet@uiowa.edu