Everette DeVan releases his new album For The Love of You this weekend with two area shows—one in his home base of Kansas City and another here in Wichita. The record marks the first recording on the new Wichita-based label Henry Records. DeVan says that it was label founder Tim Henry who approached him about making the album.
“He said, ‘I’d like to do a CD.’ He said, ‘All I want you to do is go in there and play the organ the way that I know you know how to play it. And I don’t want any singin’ on it.’ I just gave him what he asked for,” DeVan says.
The album provides a good overview of DeVan’s tastes and abilities with material written by both James Taylor and James Brown and a few artists who land somewhere in between. DeVan says that the criteria for selecting the material was fairly simple—he had to connect with it on some level.
“I try to put something on that speaks personally to me,” he says.
DeVan is generally embraced as a master of the Hammond B3 organ but he started on the piano with music being something like the family business.
“My grandmother played piano and guitar," he says. "My mother played piano and upright bass. Her seven brothers and sisters all played something. So I was around music from the earliest time that I can remember.”
DeVan says that his career could have gone in a different direction had he followed his mother’s wishes more closely. Enthralled by Liberace she encouraged her son to become a concert pianist. He was well on his way of achieving that goal, enrolling in the Colorado Conservatory of Music. But then an uncle played him a Jimmie Smith record and, as they say, it was all over from there.
“Jazz came in the right ear, classical went out the left ear and that’s what I’ve been dealing with since then,” he says.
DeVan moved to Kansas City at age 18 and quickly became a fixture on the city’s music scene and, eventually, a mentor to many younger musicians he encountered there. One, Lisa Henry, will perform with DeVan this Saturday at Cabaret Old Town.
Their first meeting didn’t get off to the best start. She was only 15 and not old enough to be in clubs but her mother seemed to believe in the budding vocalist and approached DeVan with the following words:
“Would you let my little girl sing?’ I thought to myself, ‘OK. Here we go. Here’s another one.’ Because I was playing a jam session and you try to be fair. Even if you don’t know somebody you try to get them up for a song or two," DeVan says. "If they do well you have them come back. Lisa got up there and she sang one song. She knew what she wanted to sing. And she knew the key she wanted to sing it in. I thought, ‘OK, this is unusual.’”
Years later their musical relationship continues and DeVan says that she helps him convey his ideas to his audience.
“You want them to feel about that song the way that you do," he says. "That’s why I say that I try to pick music that speaks to me.”
Everette DeVan performs at Cabaret Old Town on Saturday night with vocalist Lisa Henry.