Review and photographs by Michael Hochanadel
“We better get right to it!” said Davell Crawford, doffing his coat enroute to the Yamaha spinet in the corner of the Cock N’ Bull dining room, apologizing for arriving late after Amtraking from Manhattan to Rensselaer at 7 and taking a cab up to Galway. He kept his cap on, noting he was dressed down: His luggage hadn’t made his flight from Minneapolis to New York the day before after a two-day, four-show Allen Toussaint tribute.
He looked up, around the converted barn, walls festooned with farm tools; then, he got right to it. He played and sang from 8:15 to 10:05pm; noting near the end that he’d planned to play all New Orleans music, “but I guess I moved away from that!” He sure started there, though, and kept pilgrimaging back in song. You could feel him thinking his way from song to song in easy-flowing unbroken glides, but you couldn’t see the seams since he played without any.
Servers glided among the tables, delivering drinks and dinners smoothly, though the room was packed, some fans standing around the edges. I had a table up close where gumbo, salad, blackened grouper with rice and sautéed squash and a dessert called “ooey gooey cake” that should be illegal appeared before me. Davell reached down and opened the cover over the piano’s soundboard, letting it rest on his knees; and he patiently re-opened it after a helpful fan dashed to replace it, thinking it had fallen open. He adjusted the mic, and he floated us all down the Mississippi with these songs:
“Somethin’ You Got” (Chris Kenner) upbeat, happy rock
“I’m Walkin’” (Fats Domino & Dave Bartholomew) a smooth rolling Fats classic
“Down to Bourbon Street” (I couldn’t find the provenance of this party number) – like the first two, this was fun and bouncy, ala Fats Domino himself. Afterward, Davell paused and proclaimed, “I’ll drink to that,” then sipped the cocktail placed atop the piano. He did a double-take and exclaimed, “Whoa! This is a sazerac! Who MADE this?! You all ever been to the Monteleone in New Orleans? This is just about as good. Who MADE this!?” Good mood confirmed and bolstered, he pulled back on the tempo with “Everything Must Change” (George Benson) his first slow number; and as fun as Davell is on rockers, stroll-beat numbers, swing-time and New Orleans funk, he’s a devastating ballad singer.
“Please Send Me Someone to Love” (Percy Mayfield) upbeat, and for the first of many times, he cued clap-alongs from the crowd by hitting his thigh with his right hand while his left pushed the pulse of the tune. EVERYBODY clapped and most managed to hit on the one.
“All These Things” (Allen Toussaint) slow love song, on a stroll beat