2016.SEP.24. US. NYC. Celebrate The Life and Music of Charles Davis
Autor: Richard Constantinidi
Etichete: Charles Davis
Saint Peter’s Church
BARRY HARRIS LEROY WILLIAMS
Born in Goodman, Mississippi, Charles Davis was raised in Chicago and graduated from DuSable High School before studying at the Chicago School of Music. Davis also studied privately with John Hauser. He played with Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Sun Ra, Lionel Hampton, Dinah Washington, Philly Joe Jones, Shirley Scott, Illinois Jacquet, Elvin Jones and Ahmad Jamal to name a few. He also performed and recorded with Kenny Dorham, with whom he was associated musically for many years.
He recorded and toured the world accompanying the Clifford Jordan Big Band, Barry Harris Jazz Ensemble, Dizzy Reece, Aaron Bell and the Duke Ellington Tribute Orchestra, Roni Ben-Hur and the El Mollenium Band, the Charles Davis All Stars, Apollo Hall of Fame Band and was the musical librarian for Spike Lee's Mo Better Blues. In 1964 he won Downbeat's International Jazz Critics Poll for the baritone saxophone and in 1984 he was named a BMI Jazz Pioneer.
Davis instructed private students from The New School; taught at the Lucy Moses School and for over 25 years was an instructor at Jazzmobile and also trained students internationally.
He leaves behind his legacy in his recordings and his family: daughters Linda Harris and Talya Wilkinson, sons Louis Davis and Lewis Holmes, grandchildren Chantell Harris, Danielle Walker, Fyielle Howard, Rachelle Jennings and Sha- keem Jennings, seven great-grandchildren, a host of relatives, friends, fellow musicians, students, and fans.
He has released multiple albums and is featured on over 100 recordings. His final release FOR LOVE OF LORI a tribute to his late wife Lori Samet Davis with Charles Davis (ts), Steve Davis (tb), Rick Germanson (p), David Williams (bass), Joe Magnarelli (tp), Neal Smith (d) Reade Street Records (2014). Other releases include: BLUE GARDENIA Charles Davis (ts), Cedar Walton (p), Peter Washington (b), Joe Farnsworth (d) Reade Street Records; OUR MAN IN COPENHAGEN Charles Davis (ts), Sam Yahel, Ben Street, Kresten playing the music of Bent Jaedig. Fresh Sound Records (2008); LAND OF DREAMS Charles Davis (ts), Tardo Hammer (p), Lee Hudson (b), Jimmy Wormworth (d) Smalls Records (2007); INGIA! Charles Davis (bs), Gerald Hayes (as), Ronnie Mathews (p), Tex Allen (tp), David Williams (b), Louis Hayes (d) with his son Louis Davis on guitar. Strata-East Records (1974)
Charles Davis forged his bracing, bebop tenor saxophone style in Chicago’s clubs and jam sessions, but it was only when he began to specialise on the more cum- bersome baritone that he found his true voice and gained wider international recognition. It was his instrumental com- mand and solo fluency on baritone that brought Davis several recording oppor- tunities and led band leaders as varied as the trumpeter Clark Terry and jazz mystic Sun Ra to recruit him for their touring orchestras. It also led to Davis combining with Gary Smulyan and Ronnie Cuber in the memorable Three Baritone Saxophone Band which played Ronnie Scott’s in 1998 – my first encoun- ter with the majesty of his playing.
Latterly, Davis had returned to the tenor saxophone as his main instrument, fronting his own quartet and playing with the all-star Jimmy Heath big band while still taking the occasional tour with Marshall Allen’s Sun Ra Arkestra.
Initially Davis was sent away to St Benedict’s, a Catholic boarding school in Milwaukee, before entering the celebrated DuSable high school in Chicago in 1949. There he came under the eagle eye of Captain Walter Dyett, whose music instruction had been crucial in shaping the careers of many African-American musicians and entertainers including Dinah Washington and Nat Cole. Davis said he was “brought up on Basie and Ellington”, and recalled his mother taking him to see all the great black bands of the day at the city’s Regal theater, citing her enthusiasm for Louis Jordan and Lionel Hampton, while he stayed starry- eyed at the sight of the bebop pioneer Charlie Parker with Jay McShann’s band in 1942. “I remember him playing a solo and it brought down the house,” he told me in 2008.
Having already worked with the organist Brother Jack McDuff, Davis was called by a local bandleader, Al Smith, in 1956 to back the singer Billie Holiday at Budland in Chicago, alongside the featured tenor saxophonist and former Ellington star Ben Webster. This prestigious job lasted two months, after which Davis went on the road with the New Orleans R&B singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry. As a result he gained his first glimpse of New York. “He (Henry) was a protege of Fats Domino,” Davis recalled. He then spent the next two years touring and recording with Dinah Washington, riding high, in a band stuffed with graduates of DuSable and run by the tenor saxophonist Eddie Chamblee. It was during this time that he started collaborating with Sun Ra (formerly Sonny Blount) – he told me that they shared a common interest in bebop. He was in and out of the space man’s ensemble ever after, appearing in London with the band and broadcasting on the BBC as recently as in June 2014.
By 1959, Davis had relocated permanently to New York, then as now the jazz musicians’ mecca, and formed an enduring association with the innovative hard-bop trumpeter Kenny Dorham, their quintets gaining lengthy residencies and recording regularly. When I asked him which musicians he missed most, it was Dorham, who died in 1972, who came to mind instantly.
In what was both a halcyon period for modern jazz in New York and for Davis personally, he began to play or record with every soloist of consequence, including John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones and Dizzy Gillespie, while taking extended European tours with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, the Clark Terry Big Bad Band (playing London memorably in 1977) and with Abdullah Ibrahim in both Europe and Africa, and making an array of solo appearances at international festivals and clubs. He also formed many short-lived combos to play club dates in New York, one critic describing him as “getting a gurgling, darkly tinged sound” on the baritone.
“The most impressive of the handful of important new baritone saxophonists who have come to prominence during the 1960s,” according to the critic Leonard Feather, Davis won the DownBeat International Jazz Critics Poll for baritone saxophone in 1964. Jazz performance was, he said, “a way of life. You can’t fake your way through it.”
Charles Davis, jazz saxophonist, composer and educator, born 20 May 1933; died 15 July 2016 –– Peter Vacher The Guardian
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