Donovon Kranzler-Lewis and D’Vonne Lewis photo courtesy of the artists
Simply Soulful Café
2321 S Jackson St
BY NADYA BARGHOUTY
In the early to mid-20th century, Jackson Street was the beating heart of Seattle’s jazz scene, serving as a place for musicians to perform, jam, and learn from one another. Today, the legacy of Jackson Street is kept alive with traditions like the Jackson Street Jazz Walk, and efforts like drummers D’Vonne Lewis and son Donovon Kranzler-Lewis’ new jazz jam at the Simply Soulful Café.
The Simply Soulful Jamz, hosted by the father-son duo, will be broken up into two session types throughout January 2024. Two Fridays a month, Lewis and a rotating cast of musicians will take the intimate café stage and one Sunday a month, Lewis will oversee an all-ages student jam session. His son Donovon, age 10, will facilitate and support peers in experimenting with different instruments and joining in on the fun.
The idea for the Simply Soulful Jamz first sparked when Andra Kranzler, Donovon’s mom and friend of Simply Soulful owner Lillian Rambus, saw music one Sunday at the new location on 23rd and Jackson. The restaurant has been expanding in its efforts to bring live music, specifically jazz, back to the historic Central District. After getting in touch with Rambus, Lewis decided to turn this into an opportunity for both him and his son.
Jazz has a long history within the Lewis family. Lewis’ grandfather, the notable Seattle jazz keyboardist Dave Lewis, would play all around the PNW and his father, Dave Lewis Jr., was a drummer, beginning the lineage of drummers, with D’Vonne and Donovon to follow in cymbal-shaped footsteps. Lewis said he never wanted to force drums on his son. According to the youngest Lewis, he recalls his mother’s confidence that he would be a musician when he was still “in her stomach.” The young Lewis began coming to shows with his dad at age five and sometimes even joined him on stages as big as the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. When asked if he gets nervous playing big shows with his father, Kranzler-Lewis gave an immediate “no.” In reference to his band Brood Awakening, he went on to say, “Music makes me feel good. I like playing with someone who knows where I am coming from…with a kid who is also trying to fit in with music.” The kid in question is saxophonist Cliff Colón’s son, Xavier, on keys.
Lewis emphasized the community-building aspect of the jam session for youth in Seattle. Outside of JazzED or high school music programs, there aren’t many opportunities or spaces for youth to play shows routinely. The Lewises seek to remedy that gap. As for long-term goals, Lewis says this is just the beginning. “If we could get this to a place with some sponsorship and we could get a space with drums and amps, people could just come and plug in!” He went on to mention how many of his students don’t have opportunities to play beyond their high school jazz concert. He hopes these jam sessions will allow kids to meet other budding musicians and create memorable experiences.
Upcoming events featuring D’Vonne Lewis & Friends include December 8 and December 22, 7pm. And the next student jam hosted by the Lewises is on December 3, 4pm. To learn about more upcoming Simply Soulful jazz events visit facebook.com/simplysoulful.