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
"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
"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,"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.