Debbie Davis & Josh Paxton

Introduced to each other by the legendary Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris, Josh and Debbie have spent the better part of 20 years exploring their shared musical interests ranging from Duke Ellington and Jellyroll Morton to Stevie Wonder and Randy Newman. Together, Josh and Debbie have performed in Switzerland, Italy and France as well as domestic performances across the country. 

Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great

Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton

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Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great

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The featured single from Debbie and Josh’s upcoming album, Interesting Times. Penned by New Orleans composer, Luke Allen, this song is a meditation on the times we are bearing witness to. History will remember these days for what they were, but how will it remember us? Baby, this aint no time to break...

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Vices and Virtues - a live record

Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton

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Interesting Times

Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton

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Interesting Times

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A collection of songs to see you through our current individual and collective crises, existential and otherwise. 'Cause baby, this ain't no time to break. And, other than everything, everything's great.

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    Will It Go Round In Circles

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    Pure Imagination

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    The Man Who Sold the World

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    A Night in Tunisia

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    Political Science

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    Other Than Everything, Everything's Great

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    Swing Brother Swing

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    I'm the Man

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    Your Racist Friend

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    The Way It Is

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    Still Crazy After All These Years

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    Life On Mars?

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    If It's Magic

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'Interesting Times' Press

New Orleans Musicians release an album that seems tailored for pandemic: "Interesting Times"

keith spera, staff writer, New Orleans Advocate, Times Picayune, NOLA.com

April 6,2020

New Orleans vocalist Debbie Davis and pianist Josh Paxton did not set out to make the first “coronavirusalbum.” They started working on their new “Interesting Times” last year, long before the pandemic. 

But “Interesting Times” and its prescient single “Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great” sure sound like they were tailored for these strange times. 

“That was not our intention,” Davis said recently. “I didn’t use a Ouija board at any point. 

“This record was charmingly relevant a month ago. But nothing could have predicted its level of relevance now. I’m alarmed, and sad, that it’s this relevant.” 

“Interesting Times,” available in digital and physical formats via Davis’ website, debbiedavismusic.com, collects 13 intimate voice-and-piano arrangements of songs from across the pop and jazz spectrums. 

Davis and Paxton open with a percolating take on Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles.” They find fresh pathos in David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Life on Mars.” They conjure a not-so-quiet storm in a full-bore charge through Joe Jackson’s “I’m the Man.” 

Some selections, such as Randy Newman’s “Political Science,” are clearly political. Others, such as “A Night in Tunisia” and “Swing Brother Swing,” are just for fun. 

“I don’t think you can have a revolution if you don’t have a sense of humor,” Davis said. “You can, but what a dreary way to make your point. Joe Strummer and the Clash tried to prepare us for this. The Skatalites tried to prepare us. Don’t just stamp your feet, but lift them up.” 

Since arriving in New Orleans from New Jersey in 1997, Davis has become a stalwart on the local scene. She’s worked with the late Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, the Pfister Sisters, Paul Sanchez’s Rolling Roadshow, the New Orleans Nightingales and her own Debbie Davis & the Mesmerizers, which includes her husband, bassist and sousaphonist Matt Perrine. 

Singer Debbie Davis and pianist Josh Paxton, photographed on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans on March 18, 2020, after the entertainment district had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

PROVIDED PHOTO BY MARC PAGANI 

After 22 years as musical partners, she and Paxton, who were introduced by Leigh Harris, are simpatico. 

“There are people in your life that you understand in a way that needs no explanation,” Davis said. “We understand what the negative space means. Josh can tell by the way I breathe what I’m going to sing. If anything is close to telekinetic, that’s it.” 

She and Paxton had serious concerns about the country’s direction long before COVID-19. “We’ve kind of been f----- for a while,” she said. “This wind didn’t just start blowing. 

“There have been problems and changes and cataclysmic things happening to people who can’t defend themselves. We’re watching the most vulnerable people get taken advantage of in ways that we can’t stop.” 

Increasingly disturbed by it all, she and Paxton resolved last fall to make some sort of statement on record. They assembled a “grocery list” of songs and started recording at Esplanade Studiosand, later Marigny Studios. 

After realizing the songs fell into two distinct camps that wouldn’t mesh on a single album, they planned to release two separate albums at the start of the busy spring festival season. 

When the coronavirus pandemic postponed New Orleans’ major festivals, they shifted gears again and held back one of the albums until fall. 

But “Interesting Times” needed to come out now. 

“It took on a life of its own, and then the world changed, and this project changed with it,” Davis said. “I’m still getting used to what the record means. It means something different than a month ago, and something different than when we started.” 

On “Interesting Times,” Davis and Paxton revive “Your Racist Friend,” from brainy pop duo They Might Be Giants’ 1990 masterpiece “Flood.” The song pairs a jaunty melody with such lyrics as, “This is where the party ends/I can't stand here listening to you/And your racist friend.” 

Davis and Paxton rediscovered “Flood” while on tour. “We were just slack-jawed,” she recalled. “It was done 30 years ago and is still relevant. Not enough has changed to make any of those songs obsolete, especially that one.” 

Luke Allen, leader of local Americana ensemble Happy Talk Band, wrote “Other Than Everything, Everything’s Great” in early 2017 following Donald Trump’s inauguration. Allen hasn’t formally released the song himself; Davis first heard him perform an acoustic version on a Facebook video. 

To her ears, it “sounded like an Irish drinking protest song, like so many of the best protest songs are. It cut me to the bone.” 

Singer Debbie Davis and pianist Josh Paxton, photographed on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans on March 18, 2020, after the entertainment district had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

PROVIDED PHOTO BY MARC PAGANI 

For their arrangement, she and Paxton took inspiration from Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas in the form of a 12/8 time signature that “feels like a waltz, but isn’t. It seemed like a natural cohesion of two different genres trying to do the same thing. A lot of R&B music was protest music disguised as love songs or dance songs.” 

Davis wraps her lush voice around “Pure Imagination,” Gene Wilder’s showcase in the original “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Imagination, she believes, is critical in challenging times. 

“Not to turn a blind eye, but we have the power to create good in the world if we choose to. You can create a better world for yourself in small ways. I don’t like talking in bumper stickers, but you can be the change you want. 

“Without that, you are at the mercy of a terrible and unfair world. How you perceive the world around you is the first line of defense.” 

During the first couple weeks of the coronavirus quarantine, she kept busy by doing the graphic design for “Atmosphere,” the new album by Matt Perrine’s brass band, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. 

She also conceived of the “Interesting Times” artwork. Initially, she wasn’t sure how to illustrate the album’s themes and the current state of the world. 

“I had some ideas, but nothing really presented itself in a cogent way. All of a sudden, when we were confined to quarters and places were shut down, I saw in my mind’s eye what our life-scape was — we were all dressed up with no place to go.” 

So on the night of March 18, she, Paxton and photographer Marc Pagani ventured out to Frenchmen Street. City- and state-mandated closures had left the normally bustling entertainment district eerily deserted and silent. 

Davis had visualized the scene, but “didn’t expect it to be as scary as it was. It was scary down there. Marc really captured what that looked and felt like. He found a way to represent the emptiness of that space. Everything we saw knocked the wind out of us all over again.” 

The “Interesting Times” photo shoot ended up being a “time capsule of Frenchmen Street. When it comes back again, it probably won’t look like that. It will be different — hopefully, different for the right reasons.” 

And, she hopes, not just Frenchmen Street. 

*** 

Reviews and Press

WWOZ 90.7 New Music Spotlight - Chris Saucier

VICES AND VIRTUES:

Vocalist Debbie Davis and pianist Josh Paxton team up together to release their newest live album "Vices and Virtues – a live record". After nearly 20 years of collaboration, Vices and Virtues marks their solo debut as an actual duo. Recorded live on March 4 at the U.S. Mint, this live recording captures the "spontaneity, intimacy, and dynamic range" of the two musicians as they soar through a selection of standards mixed with the jazzy renditions of popular songs. Overall, this recording is successful in capturing the intimacy and proficiency of these musicians and is a great representation of their musical prowess. 

The performance begins with a solid version of 'On the Sunny Side of the Street,' which immediately provides the listener with something pleasant as the piano bounces along to Davis' rich, soulful voice. Paxton is just getting started with 'Lulu’s Back In Town,' a Fats Waller tune, and tears apart this piano solo after her powerful voice swells and artfully handles the high-paced lyrical phrasing. While some tracks are full of energy, the duo also is capable of intimate moments, particularly on the track 'It’s Not the Years, It’s the Miles.' Davis sings Alex McMurray’s song of introspection and looking back on life beautifully, and combined with Paxton’s piano, the placement in the set of this song is a good dynamic shift overall, before the duo jumps into some more energetic songs like 'When I’m 64' and 'Lady Madonna.' 

The live recording is an excellent representation of Debbie Davis’ powerful and developed vocal expertise along with Josh Paxton’s ability to glide around the piano. These artists breathe new life into these songs and highlight their own skill by the ease in which they shift through the different styles of these songs. Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton’s debut record as a duo will have you dancing and singing along for a well-spent 90 minutes. 

Vices and Virtues – a live record is available on CD and mp3 from their website, the Louisiana Music Factory, CDBaby, and Amazon. They'll be performing together at the Louisiana Music Factory on May 1 at 1:30p as part of the store's free in-store series during Jazz Fest.

 Offbeat Magazine - Brett Milano

VICES AND VIRTUES REVIEW

Debbie Davis has always been a musical polymath, with a wide-open definition of what qualifies as a jazz song: Material on this live disc ranges from Duke Ellington to the Beatles (twice) to Tom Lehrer to Alex McMurray, which covers 80 years and a few different worlds. What the songs all have in common is vivid characters in the middle of loving, sinning or both—just what a resourceful singer needs to get her voice around. 

Davis has usually worked in bigger groups, but here she’s joined by Josh Paxton, a pianist whose instincts are every bit as flexible as her voice. Give them a gorgeous tune (Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”) and they’ll do some graceful variations; give them a lusty one (“Lulu’s Back in Town”) and they’ll cavort with it. Their version of “Lady Madonna” is one good example: Before the tune, Davis jokingly tries to rattle Paxton by noting that Fats Domino had covered it with James Booker on keys. And they wind up expanding on both familiar versions: During the first solo, Paxton plays it Paul McCartney–style while Davis sings the horn line; but for the second one, he takes off on some wild, Booker-esque invention. There is in fact no piano solo on the Domino/Booker version, so here Paxton shows what Booker might have played. 

Paxton can also match Davis’ sense of mischief: They approach Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango” as a steamy torch song, which of course makes it funnier. But the best track here is also the biggest surprise, Amy Winehouse’s “Love Is a Losing Game.” The song was written to be a heartbreaker—and of course, the original singer was no slouch herself—and they get the mood and the atmosphere just right, making this a performance for sad romantics everywhere.

A musical holiday offering from Debbie and Josh

VIDEO - Davis/Paxton, d.b.a. New Orleans

biographies

Josh Paxton

At the age of five Joshua Paxton received a little yellow toy piano that he banged on for years, playing along with TV jingles and music on the radio by ear. At 11 his parents gave into his pleas for piano lessons and bought him his first piano. Josh moved from his native Ohio to New Orleans to study piano with Ellis Marsalis in the mid- 90s.By the time he earned his masters degree in Jazz Piano, he found that the city had gotten its teeth into him, so he stayed.  Since then he has served at the pleasure of notable acts as Maria Muldaur, Leigh “Li’l Queenie Harris, Cookie Gabriel, Bruce Hornsby, the Afghan Whigs, Papa Mali, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, The Wild Tchopitoulas, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Pfister Sisters. His transcriptions of the music of James Booker (The James Booker Collection, Hal Leonard) and Professor Longhair have become standard reference tools for pianists the world over.

Debbie Davis

The daughter of two opera singers, Debbie Davis never had a chance. She was born a singer. She made her professional singing debut at the age of two and by her 5th birthday she was traveling with her parents, performing childrens' roles in opera companies all over America. A native of New Jersey, Debbie moved to New Orleans in 1997 and began making a name for herself in the local music community. Debbie has recorded and/or performed with Irma Thomas, Michael Cerveris, John Boutte, Soul Asylum, The Misfits, Dukes of Dixieland, Leigh "Lil Queenie" Harris, Paul Sanchez (Cowboy Mouth), Harry Shearer (Spinal Tap), Tony Clifton and Alex McMurray.  In 1999 she joined the world renowned vocal group,The Pfister Sisters, and spent the next 19 years performing locally and internationally with the group. Debbie was the jingle singer for the 2003-2009 Zatarains ad campaign and contributed to the Grammy and Emmy Award winning sound track to HBOs TREME.  She also made regular appearances as herself on TREME during it’s four season run.