Ori Naftaly has been a music fan since he was young. Growing up in Israel, he started playing the guitar around the age of 5, and his influences included American music — blues, soul, funk, jazz – as well as what was going on in Israel — middle-eastern, Turkish-pop.
Every show, there is a blend of his influences into a unique sound. Naftaly said he brings something different, but it’s nothing that is forced, it comes naturally.
“It’s not about playing a different instruments, or something, it’s not a major difference. It’s the nuances that are in me that are being thrown into the mix,” said Naftaly, who is the leader and guitarist for Southern Avenue.
“Whether it’s solos, or whether it’s the licks, or whether it’s the phrasing of my solo – there’s no other guitar player that sounds like me…. I’m very authentic to myself which makes Southern Avenue definitely more of a world music touch and a bit more than the usual … stereotypical memphis music.”
The Memphis band will be performing as part of the Montrose Summer Music at 7 Friday at the Black Canyon Golf Course, 1350 Birch St., Montrose. The Brown Family will be opening at 6 p.m.
“Southern Avenue is going to blow Montrose away. Tierinii is combination of Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, very high energy! I really can’t wait to see them again, this time playing songs from their 2017 self titled album and Keep On which was released in May of this year. Folks will be talking about this show for a long time,” said MSMS founder Dave Bowman, who also serves as the mayor of Montrose.
In 2013, Naftaly represented Israel at the international blues challenge in Memphis. He did well in the competition and was able to make some contacts, and was able to get a visa. He has been touring ever since.
Naftaly said he has made all of his childhood dreams come true by doing what he does. He is blessed, thankful and knows he couldn’t have done it on his own, he added.
The next level for Naftaly is Southern Avenue.
The band, along with Naftaly, is composed of: vocalist Tierinii Jackson; drummer Tikyra Jackson; and keyboardist Jeremy Powell.
After touring for a bit, Naftaly wanted to change things up, and asked who the best singer in Memphis was. He was directed to Tierinii, who introduced him to her sister Tikyra. Naftaly offered Tierinii something she had never done before — have a band of her own and write music for that band.
“We didn’t really expect to get signed on Stax so quickly,” Naftaly said. “I knew we had something special but you never really know up until you start writing and creating music and see what you’ve got.”
There is something special that bonds the members of Southern Avenue as they have had the same mindset since the beginning. Naftaly said they have this understanding among each other and share a lot of the same interests and goals.
When Southern Avenue comes together to write, Naftaly said the process is different every time. They get inspired by life and music and create. The band’s sound has been described as an effortlessly organic soul/blues/R&B fusion.
In 2017, they released their self-titled debut album, via Stax record label. The band released its recent album, “Keep On,” in May with Concord Records. Naftaly is proud to say the group has been told they were able to avoid the “sophomore slump.”
Musically, this album shows that they have gotten better as musicians, he said. But lyrically, it really stands out.
“I feel like this album is definitely a progress towards our sound,” Naftaly said. “There’s a lot of different sounds in the album, and I think that we managed to create, overall, a better product than the first one. … I think we really managed to say more and be more specific and talk about subjects that we didn’t get into on the first one.”
Some topics include not giving up and to keep going. The song “We’re not so different,” talks about the problems found all over the world regarding people who are different than you. It’s not just race, it could be economically or religiously, but it’s when you think someone is different than you then you are in the wrong, Naftaly said. Every song has a meaning to the band.
The band has traveled around the US as well as internationally. Their sound has been well received, Naftaly said, adding he is a modest but they are happy and blessed with how they are received. The band still feels that there is still room for growth.
This will be Naftaly’s third time in Montrose. The first time he played here was on a flatbed stage outside of Horsefly Brewery on Main Street with a different band, Bowman said. He returned with what is now the core of Southern Avenue in June 2015.
“They were the first band at Montrose Summer Music Series with vocalist Tierinii Jackson and her sister Tikyra on drums and backup vocals back in 2015. I have watched this band grow from a little band out of Memphis to international touring stars,” Bowman said. “They first recorded for the rejuvenated Stax label, the most important soul label in the 60’s and 70’s, then moving to Concord, one of the biggest labels in the world. They are simply one the best Soul/R&B bands in America today.”
The group has played in Colorado before and they are excited to be back in the state.
Although every show is different — not every song fits a live show and not song fits every live show. Southern Avenue gives everything they’ve got in their shows, Naftaly said, they try to make the audience feel better, feel better about the world and make the world a better place.
“We feel like we’re millionaires emotionally,” Naftaly said. “We’re progressing emotionally that in a way— that’s the best thing we can do is share that with the audience. We do that in a way that’s really, really real. Every show for us is the Super Bowl. We sacrifice so much to be able to travel and do this that once we get to the stage there’s a release that all of us need.”
They try not to think about what they are sacrificing until they are on stage. When they are there, they are reminded that this is why they sacrifice. He said this is something that the audience can’t ignore, and that makes for a good show.
As in the past, the show will be free, attendees are asked to bring a lawn chair or blanket to the golf course. Food and beverages will be available to purchase or attendees are welcome to bring their own food but outside alcohol is not allowed.
Bowman said Hillcrest Street, which is currently under construction between the entrance of the BVlack Canyon Golf Course and the roundabout on Sunnyside will be open Friday. There will be parking available on both sides of the street.
For more information on Southern Avenue, visit southernavenuemusic.com.
Monica Garcia is the news editor at the Montrose Daily Press.