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Roy Davis Jr.'s soulful spin control

Dec. 12, 2007
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November 29, 2007

One of Chicago's most acclaimed deep house artists launched his music career as a CD shrink-wrapper for the burgeoning underground label Trax. It took only a few moments before he brushed shoulders with the likes of Glenn Underground, Ron Kell, Steve Poindexter and DJ Rush. Now, several dozen EPs later, Roy Davis Jr. has become a global dance legend in his own right.

Since the late 1980s, Davis Jr. has been crafting an uplifting blend of house, soul and electronica that transcends the typical blush of deep-house bass. The California native spent most of his younger years soaking up the underground music scene on Chicago's South Side, where he moved shortly after his first birthday. By the time he landed a job at Trax in the early 1990s, house music had burrowed deeper underground than ever before—and newbie Davis Jr. was eager to delve into the mix.

As an artist, he credits fellow producer Marsh Jefferson for releasing his first self-styled tracks under the name Umosia. Shortly after their debut, New York's esteemed Strictly Rhythm label took notice of his soul-electrica style and invited him to work as an A&R scout. On the East Coast, Davis Jr. strengthened the fusion of his deep house sound to distinguish himself from the slew of producers and DJs riding the revival wave of Chicago's own underground scene. His production tapped into the smoky veins of jazz and soul, while his vocals seemingly fluttered over with a reverend-like swagger that commanded obedience. By the time he released the signature Gabriel in 1998 (Large), Davis Jr. was immersed in a creative journey that was leading him back to his spiritual roots in both life and music. The soulful house solidity of the track earned it "Dance Track of the Year" by several publications and put Davis Jr. on a path that would earn him notoriety as one of the most honestly raw producers in the business.

Davis Jr. has since relocated back to the West Coast, where he continues to broaden his production career on such labels as Large and Bombay Records. Coupled with his own musical ingenuity on keys, drums, vocals and beyond, Davis Jr. is one of the few house players in the game whose live craft is as mesmerizing as his soul.

Roy Davis Jr. makes a rare Milwaukee appearance on Friday, Nov. 30, at Three (722 N. Milwaukee St.). Chicago/New York house producer and Synesthesia resident DJ Remedy opens the show. Music 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.


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