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Yeah! A Special 10th Anniversary Tribute to Jazz Room Host Curtis Davenport

If you’re a JAZZ ROOM regular, chances are you feel you already know host Curtis Davenport, whose booming baritone and affable presence have welcomed audiences since the very first set 10 years ago. But on this 10th anniversary, read on to discover what you may not know about our more-than-amazing host.

If you’ve heard Curtis say, “Welcome to the JAZZ ROOM!”, you won’t be surprised to learn he started cultivating his magnetic stage presence at the age of four. That’s when he first appeared at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, modeling a pint-sized suit in one of his parents’ “J&L Fashions” runway shows. Thanks to that gig, and luckily for us, he’s felt comfortable in front of audiences all his life.

If you’ve tuned into Conversations with Curtis, which became a JazzArts streaming staple during Covid, you won’t be surprised to learn he’s been building his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz for more than 40 years. Fresh out of Hofstra University, he started spinning discs for Long Island stations, ultimately finding his groove in jazz. In 2004, that radio experience found new expression online in CurtJazz Radio, which you can enjoy whenever you’re not attending live performances at the JAZZ ROOM. Along with DJ-ing great cuts, Curtis has utilized online platforms to blog prolifically about jazz while also writing for prestigious Jazz Inside magazine. In the process, he’s become known as an authority and historian of the Black American music known as jazz. As fate would have it, his work brought him to the attention of Delfeayo Marsalis who introduced Curtis to Lonnie and Ocie Davis in Charlotte as they were building Jazz Arts Initiative in 2013.

If you’ve heard him encourage JAZZ ROOM audiences to shout “Yeah!” in the middle of a set, you won’t be surprised to learn call-and-response comes naturally to Reverend Curtis Davenport. Named for his minister grandfather, Curtis felt a calling for years before ultimately becoming ordained and serving different Charlotte congregations in a part-time capacity.

Realizing this is a true Renaissance man, you won’t be surprised to learn Curtis has also excelled in a long career in the corporate world, which fortunately brought him to Charlotte in 2000. As if his current role as head of leadership development for Duke Energy’s nuclear division wasn’t enough, he’s now earning his Master’s degree in Talent and Organizational Development at Queens University.

If you’ve recognized this man’s largeness of heart, you won’t be surprised to learn he’s devoted to his family. You may even have seen Curtis and his wife, Rene, featured years ago in a Lifetime Live TV series. Hosts Deborah Roberts and Dana Reeve covered the Davenports’ difficult road to pregnancy on account of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), bringing much-needed attention to the disorder. Thankfully, their story led to the birth of son, John, now 22.

Finally, if you follow Curtis on Facebook, you may have learned he’s a cancer survivor. In fact, when Lonnie asked if he’d like to host the JAZZ ROOM, he deferred committing, pending the outcome of surgery. The excellent results came just in time for Curtis to accept the offer. So, as we celebrate the JAZZ ROOM’s 10th anniversary, we also celebrate Curtis’ cancer-free years with a resounding “Yeah!” and hopes for many more years in which he’ll welcome us to every JAZZ ROOM performance.

– Barbara Birge, JazzArts Charlotte Volunteer

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