She is the darling of Portland jazz audiences, making new fans whenever she displays her varied and promising musical talents.
Seventeen-year-old Kate Davis, who will be a senior at West Linn high school in September, is destined for big things in music and not necessarily limited to jazz.
Her mother was the neighborhood piano teacher and her father had a life long passion for drumming. She followed her mom's lead and took piano lessons from her. When she turned 7, Davis says, "I took little baby lessons on the violin and made scratchy sounds. It took about three years for me to enjoy playing and making music.
Davis says she went through the usual pre-teen stages but while in the seventh grade attended a West Linn high school jazz band fund raiser. Hearing jazz she was able to compare it with classical music and what she calls "A light bulb moment."
Within a few weeks, she began bass lessons. At first, she was overwhelmed by the instrument's size, especially after years of playing the violin. Blisters became an issue. She remained focused and joined the Metropolitan Youth Symphony's jazz band and attended the Mel Brown jazz camp.
"The experience at the camp really inspired me and I learned from those professionals what the jazz life is all about and I realized how much I truly loved the music," Davis said.
She recalls her first job as a musician. It was pianist Randy Porter's gig and his first choice bassist couldn't make it. After calling several other who it turned out were also unavailable, she got the call. Ron Steen was the group's drummer and he was impressed enough to add her to his regular Wednesday night gig at Wilf's at Union Station.
It caught a recent Wednesday night performance and was wowed by not only this young prodigy's bass playing and singing but also by her bandstand composure and poise.
The first set heard her do a nice mix of vocal and instrumental tunes. Her vocals are delivered with a pleasant, light voice, excellent diction and a firm sense of direction.
"Little Girl Blue," "I Remember April," and "Devil May Care" were standout vocals. She and drummer Steen kept the band in the pocket on the instrumental "Yardbird Suite." She began "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" with an unaccompanied bass solo and after singing a chorus, performed a luscious, lyrical solo on her instrument.
International piano star, Dave Frishberg, who was on piano this night and has played with literally hundreds of bassists during his multi-decades career said, " I was knocked out by her singing. It took a lot of nerve for her to sing "I'm Hip" and she sang it beautifully.
Currently, Davis is in midst of creating a CD. Her plan is to include many of the musicians who have helped and inspired her along her jazz journey. She is also not giving up classical violin performance but is planning to major in bass in college.
It's a sure bet the best known colleges and universities with great music programs will line up to compete for her enrollment.
Davis will be appearing Wednesday, July 9 with Ron Steen at Wilf's.