Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : May 2006

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The Eye in We

The April showers pelting the neon-tinted sidewalks outside the Mayorga Café in Silver Spring, Maryland, do little to dampen the spirit of the Friday night crowd settling down within to experience the jazz renderings of the Eye in We www.eyeinwe.com.

"Music tends to bring everyone together," says drummer David Coaxum, who, along with fellow attorney and guitarist Michael Lyles, bassist Ed Turn-er and a rotating cast of other players and vocalists, graces coffee shops and other intimate venues from D.C. to Baltimore with the unifying sounds of the Eye in We roughly 12 times a year.

"Maybe it's our personalities . . . or what we want to get out in the music, but people have said [to us], ‘Wow, all of you can really play!'" adds Lyles, who serves as a Bowie city councilman in addition to his day job with the Department of Defense. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we like to play."

"But you know, one of the great things about music is that it's kind of a private thing, too, because each person has their own interpretation of what they're listening to," adds Coaxum, who practices business law and litigation, general civil litigation, and family law with the Greenbelt-based firm of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake. "There could be one individual song that you have a certain reaction to, and I'll have a totally different reaction to it – but, nonetheless, it kind of speaks to your soul. And so we try to do that with our music – try to tap into those areas for people so they can enjoy it and come away with something that they didn't have before."

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"I had always wanted to do more with [my] musical side," says Coaxum, who grew up playing drums in his native New York City, but gave his kit away when he headed south to Washington, D.C., to attend college. "About three, four years ago, I started picking up the drums again after a hiatus; (for) roughly 15, 16 or so years I didn't play at all. So I picked it up again, found a few guys to play with – [and] it was working pretty well, but it wasn't really the right mix."

Lyles had already been playing with a few bands when he met Coaxum at a college alumni event. The two men were soon struck by the significant overlap in their musical tastes and inclinations.

"I'm rooted in jazz," says Coaxum. "I studied under Charlie Persip, who played with the Dizzy Gillespie band. I think jazz is somewhat the root of all music in America, and in my opinion, if you can play jazz you can play almost anything."

"The (Eye in We) was David's idea," notes Lyles. The "eye" in the band's name refers to the Eye of Horus, the ancient Egyptian symbol that preceded the all-seeing "Eye of Providence" that now adorns the U.S. dollar.

"It's kind of the ‘third eye'," explains Coax-um. "And it's kind of the inward eye, using the third-eye vision. We play from the soul . . . so the whole concept is really about looking inward to bring out musically what you wouldn't otherwise be able to bring out."

"I've been in several groups, but this is the only group I've been in where everybody's really consummate at what they do; we get a sense of where someone wants to go, where a song or tune is going," adds Lyles.

By Coaxum's estimate, the band's repertoire is comprised of "30 percent originals and 70 percent covers." The band covers material by the likes of Miles Davis, Stanley Turrentine and Cannonball Adderly, and will sometimes reinterpret contemporary tunes, as Coaxum notes, by "putting a jazz twist on it – like a vocal song by Stevie Wonder, for example, and putting a sax lead on it [in lieu of] the vocal."

Songwriting is an open forum for the Eye in We. "Everybody brings in songs," says Lyles. "I think we're all anxious to do a show where we're (performing) 50 percent (original material), if not more," adds Lyles. "Jazz, funk, R&B – whatever it is, I think we're all chomping at the bit to get an album's worth of (original) songs under our belt."

While the band is in the process of recording its debut album, Coaxum admits that the professional and personal commitments of each band member have made the road slow-going. "There's so much else that we're involved in that it's often hard to bring everyone together at the same time," he says.

Moreover, regardless of the synergetic outlet afforded by the group, Lyles, for one, admits that he has no intention of giving up his day job.

"For me the practice of law is very spiritually fulfilling," says Lyles. "I'm not one of those folks that don't like to practice law."

But except for the odd client or two that he finds by way of his music, Lyles doesn't foresee committing himself to the entertainment field of practice. "It doesn't necessarily excite me all that much," he admits. "I'd rather play."

"Like Mike, I really enjoy practicing law as well," adds Coaxum. "I mean, I don't know what else I would do professionally – unless Sting gives me a call next week!"

What do you do in your spare time? The Bar Bulletin wants to know! Call Patrick Tandy at (410) 685-7878, ext. 3027, or e-mail ptandy@msba.org.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: May 2006

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