There's a heavy blues and soul element in the jazz guitar stylings of Bob DeVos. He can't help it, as many of his formative years in Paterson, N.J. were spent performing with groups influenced by B.B. King, Otis Redding, James Brown, and other classic blues and rhythm & blues performers. While no one in DeVos' family played a musical instrument, he was influenced by his parents' and his older brother's record collections, which included Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Frank Sinatra as well as King Curtis, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and other pioneers of rock & roll.
Shortly after making his professional debut playing blues and classic rhythm & blues, New Jersey-based DeVos discovered pure jazz stylists like Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall, and Pat Martino. In his early twenties, he chose jazz over rock, realizing he needed more chord changes and the freedom of expression that jazz and soul-jazz offered. In the '80s, '90s, and into the new millennium, DeVos' guitar style in various groups he'd led could best be described as an artful blend of blues, classic rhythm & blues, and straight-ahead jazz.
DeVos began playing guitar in the '60s and was a student of legendary guitar teachers Harry Leahy and Dennis Sandole. In 1970, Sandole sent his best students out to audition for Hammond organist Trudy Pitts, DeVos was hand-picked by Pitts to play with her group. Since making his professional debut with Pitts, DeVos has accompanied all manner of jazz and blues organists including Richard "Groove" Holmes with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, Jimmy McGriff, and Charles Earland.
Through the years, DeVos has recorded or toured with a short who's-who of soul-jazz: saxophonists Hank Crawford, Stitt, David "Fathead" Newman, and vocalist Irene Reid, as well as organists McGriff, Holmes, Gene Ludwig, and Joey DeFrancesco. DeVos has performed at the Kennedy Center and at all of New York City's top jazz nightclubs.
For much of the '90s, DeVos led his own Hammond B-3 trio, and was a member of the New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra under the leadership of Bill Warfield. Aside from teaching privately out of his home in northern New Jersey, DeVos was on the music faculty at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. He has also hosted many jazz clinics and taught at William Paterson University in Wayne. He received a grant for jazz composition from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Through the '90's and into the new millennium, DeVos has worked frequently with Gene Ludwig's Groove ORGANization, the Charles Earland Tribute Band, and the Ron McClure Quartet.
Breaking the Ice, released by Savant Records, marked his debut as a bandleader under his own name, accompanied by organist Earland, who died a short time afterwards, as well as percussionist Henry Gibson and drummer Vince Ector. DeVos' Groove Guitar, his debut album for the New Jersey-based Blues Leaf label, was released in 2002. ~ Richard Skelly