An interview with Richard Davis (1930-2023), musician, teacher, activist.

An interview with bassist Richard Davis, musician, teacher, activist.

free sheet music download partitions gratuites Noten spartiti partituras Richard Davis

Richard Davis’ short biography

Richard Davis – American jazz bassist, teacher; Richard Davis was born on April 15, 1930 in Chicago but moved to Wisconsin in 1977 and became a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, teaching bass, jazz history, and improvisation.

Richard Davis joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1977 after spending 23 years in New York City establishing himself as one of the world’s premier bass players.

Down Beat International Critics Poll named him Best Bassist from 1967-74. He took the same honors from that publication’s Readers Poll for seven consecutive years.

In 1993, Davis founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, Inc.

In 2009, Davis received the Exceptional Service Award University of Wisconsin-Madison 2009, and the Spencer Tracy Award for Distinction in the Performing Arts from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

In 2013, Davis was chosen as a 2014 “Jazz Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information on Richard Davis, visit Wikipedia.

You can also visit his website at:

The Interview

Richard Davis’ views on race and jazz have hardly wavered since November 6, 1971, when he told his friend and interviewer, the drummer Arthur Taylor, that “black music belongs to a particular environmental culture,” and “nobody can develop it except black people, and anything else is a copy.”

He added that “only black people can be innovators of new styles, like Coltrane, who was the last innovator to take a completely different direction.” (The tenor and soprano saxophonist/composer John Coltrane had passed away four years prior to the interview. Coincidentally, Taylor played on 13 of Trane’s records, mostly from the late 1950s and early 60s.)

That 1971 conversation took place in the wake of the civil rights movement and appeared for the first time in Taylor’s book, “Notes and Tones: Musician-to-Musician Interviews.” First published in 1977, the book is regarded as “one of the most controversial, honest and insightful books ever written about jazz.” Significantly, all 29 interviewees were African-American.

As their talk concluded, Davis told Taylor that it was “one of the greatest interviews I’ve been involved with,” due to the fact that Art Taylor was a fellow musician. Davis also encouraged black musicians to produce their own records, gigs, and concerts. “To me,” he said, “this is what the black revolution is about: not having to go to the white man for things you can control yourself.”

sheet music pdf Richard Davis bassist

Fast forward to 2013, when I phoned Prof. Davis at his office at the University of Wisconsin, where he teaches bass and jazz history. Davis basically reiterated what he had told Art Taylor more than 40 years ago: that all of jazz’s major innovators, without exception, have been black.

Please, subscribe to our Library. Thank you!

Many if not most of the greatest stylists and composers have undeniably been African-American. A very short list would necessarily include Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Count Basie and Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, and of course Coltrane. But what I wanted to know is, how about people like the Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, or the pianist Bill Evans, who was of Welsh/Ukranian descent. Weren’t they innovators, too?

According to Davis, Reinhardt and Evans certainly innovated on their respective instruments, but only black musicians like Parker and Coltrane fundamentally “changed the music,” thus making them two of the architects  or innovators. Since the 1971 Taylor interview, he told me, “nothing has made me change my mind about this.”

Davis generally frowns on labeling music. Specifically, he dislikes “jazz,” which he views as derogatory towards African-Americans, because it was used to describe the type of music played in the black brothels of turn-of-the-20th-century New Orleans. (The word “jass” originally meant sexual intercourse, genitals, or excitement of any kind, including that of the musical variety.)

In truth, however, many of the musicians who entertained the brothels’ clients were not black but rather mixed-race creoles of color, a mixture of white, black, and Native American. (At various times in history, the word créole has been used to refer to white, mixed-race, and black people, including slaves.)

Any number of prominent jazz musicians have been a combination of races and ethnicities, such as the trumpeter “Fats” Navarro, who was of Cuban, Chinese, and African-American descent. The Harlem stride pianist, Willie “The Lion” Smit — who had African, Jewish, French, Spanish, and Mohawk ancestry — wrote in his memoirs that all music “is an expression from the soul of a human being” and “does not stem from any single race, creed, or locality.” Notably, Dizzy’s remark about “our native art form” was not race-specific.

As for the “bebop” movement of the 1940s, Davis chooses to use the term “revolutionary music,” pointing out that this is when black musicians began writing their own songs called “jazz standards” and collecting the royalties, rather than covering “standards” by Tin Pan Alley composers — most of whom were white, like Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwin brothers.

The year after I spoke with Davis he won the coveted NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship. At the awards ceremony,  he told the audience with a chuckle, “Some people have called it ‘bebop’  —  I call it hard to play!”

Chicago, 1930-1954

Davis, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, began his 70-plus-year career in music singing bass in his family’s amateur vocal trio. He remembers hearing Louis Armstrong on the family’s old windup Victrola. As a youngster, he would spend hours in the basement listening to blues, boogie woogie, and all the hits of the day, such as Lucky Millinder’s “I Want a Big Fat Mama,” Lil Green’s “Romance in the Dark,” Billy Eckstine’s “Jelly, Jelly,” Avery Parrish’s “After Hours,” and Little Benny’s “How Come My Dog Don’t Bark Back at You No Mo’?”

Davis took up the bass when he was 15, relatively late in life for a musician.

“I was just enthralled by the sound,” he recalled many years later. “The bass was always in the background, and I was a shy kid. So I thought maybe I’d like to be in the background.”

Along with classmates Charles Davis (no relation) and Clifford Jordan, Richard attended the fabled DuSable High School, whose alumni included luminaries like singers Nat “King” Cole, Dinah Washington, and Johnny Hartman, tenor saxophonists Gene Ammons and Von Freeman, trumpeter Sonny Cohn, and bassist Wilbur Ware, all born between 1919 and 1925.

Best Sheet Music download from our Library.

DuSable High, located at 49th Street and Wabash, had a reputation for turning out the best young musicians in the land. Top band leaders the likes of Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, and Jimmie Lunceford were known to drop by the school and recruit fresh talent.

Richard, Cliff, and Charles were but three years apart in age. Their contemporaries at DuSable in the mid-1940s included no fewer than six terrific saxophonists  —  Johnny “The Little Giant” Griffin, John Gilmore (a big influence on Coltrane), Pat Patrick, Red Holloway, Eddie Harris (who later wrote “Freedom Jazz Dance”), and John Jenkins  —  as well as jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins, trombonist Julian Priester, drummer Walter “Baby Sweets” Perkins, and bassist Ronnie Boykins.

In addition to Clifford, Richard, and Charles, many of the above would later join Sun Ra’s band at one time or another. Clifford ended up making four records with Wilbur Ware, considered one of the most original yet underrated bass players in jazz history; Ware was eight years older than Jordan.

Other classmates included the comedian Redd Foxx (born Jon Elroy Sanford) and Ellas McDaniel, who later became known as Bo Diddley, the R&B and blues singer/guitarist. When they were 12 years old, Davis and McDaniel worked at the same horse stable; some forty years later, in 1983, the two reunited on Diddley’s LP, “Where It All Began.”

Davis considered becoming a professional horseman. To quote Raymond Horricks’ “Profiles in Jazz,” Davis “grew towards manhood with, unswervingly, two great passions.” One clearly was for music. The other had to do with horses. As regards the latter, he is a fine rider and has showed in many Dressage and Jumper competitions. But it didn’t just end with riding.

It was everything connected with horses. So that by 1977, when he left West 87th Street in Manhattan to become a professor at Wisconsin, with its wide open spaces, his overwhelming ambition was to breed a thoroughbred. When I met up with him at the Nice Grande Parade in 1984 (he was there with J.J. Johnson) the dream was about to be realized. The mare he owned was with foal. However, he has not gone on to horse-trade or to enter the racing business. “One profession is enough,” he says.

These many years later, Davis still remembers his first teacher and mentor, one Captain Walter Henri Dyett, who taught music theory at DuSable and led the school band from 1935 to 1962. Davis has described him as “a very powerful man, a very spiritual man.”

The former leader of the U.S. 8th Infantry band, Captain Dyett was known as a tough taskmaster who took a quasi-military approach to training his young musicians. According to the pianist Dorothy Donegan, yet another DuSable grad, Dyett “could hear anything, even a mosquito urinating on a bale of cotton.” Classmates put out their cigarettes when they saw Capt. Dyett coming, which they never did, even for the principal.

“He had crude methods but it was out of what you’d call tough love,” Davis told Jazz Inside magazine. “He told me to sit down once and said that I’d never play the bass, and I did exactly what he probably wanted me to do: I said, ‘I’ll show you one day.’ And 20 years after I graduated, he was still prodding me, making me do things. That’s a teacher.”

It was Dyett who encouraged Davis to play both jazz and classical bass, and not just settle on one genre, which is precisely what Davis ended up doing. Dyett also inspired him to one day become an educator, and this too came to pass: for the past 38 years, Davis has been teaching at the University of Wisconsin. When it comes to teaching, he likes to quote Martin Luther King, who once said (and I paraphrase) that there’s no point in having any knowledge if you’re not going to share it.

When he was in high school, Davis’ mother insisted that he make good grades. “I couldn’t afford lower than 100 percent,” Davis recalled, “because I was black and I had two strikes against me already. With that kind of discipline and with the discipline of Walter Dyett, I had nowhere to go but to the top.”

Still a teenager, Davis began studying classical music with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Rudolph Fahsbender, an association that lasted nine years. He also studied at the VanderCook School of Music, earning a bachelor’s in nusic education in 1952.

Dyett had already turned him on to some of the older generation of legendary jazz bassists such as Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, and Slam Stewart, and Davis decided to try his hand at learning jazz on the job. In the early 1950s, he divided his time between working in orchestras and dance bands.

At a burlesque in Calumet City, on the outskirts of Chicago, he became acquainted with the house pianist, Herman Poole “Sonny” Blount (1914-1993), an Alabama native who moved to Chicago in 1945, renamed himself Sun Ra (legally, Le Sony’r Ra), and claimed to have visited other planets. “The first time I met Sonny,” says Richard, “my buddies brought him to my house, and he said, ‘I’m not gonna take you to the moon because you’re not ready yet.’ And I said, “Who is this guy??”

It was Sun Ra who encouraged Davis to think about music “on a global level,” a philosophy that he would come to embrace in future years.

New York City, 1954-1977

In 1953, while still in Chicago, Davis joined the pianist Ahmad Jamal’s trio. The next year, providence knocked on his door. The story goes that another local pianist named Don Shirley, who also had a trio, had gotten a gig in New York City, but his bassist, Johnny Pate, decided that he didn’t want to leave town. So Jamal and Shirley traded bassists. Pate joined Jamal, and Shirley took Davis to New York, which is where Richard, then 24, ended up living for the next 23 years.

A couple of years later, in 1955, Davis made his first record, consisting of duets with Shirley, called “Tonal Expressions.” After hearing them at a concert, Igor Stravinsky was heard to murmur, “They have the virtuosity of Gods!”

Initially, Davis was “frightened” by life in the Big City, seeing New York as “this mammoth, monster-like environment that would swallow you up.” He asked for his job back but Pate told him that he belonged in New York. He relates this “story of fear” to his students to encourage them “to go ahead and jump in the water.”

Davis was petrified that he might run into any of the great bassists who were on the scene. “There was so much talent and I was always feeling that a bass player who was already established in New York would see me carrying a bass and say, ‘Where you going, boy?’”

The late bassist and Iowa transplant Charlie Haden (1937-2014), who was seven years younger than Davis, recalled going to a club in New York at around the same time and seeing a veritable Who’s Who of jazz bassists hanging out at the bar, including Davis, Wilbur Ware, Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter, Henry Grimes, and Percy Heath!

Despite feeling intimidated, Davis was pleasantly surprised to find that some of his fellow bassists, such as Al Lucas, Al McKibbon, Percy Heath, Ray Brown, and George Duvivier, welcomed him with open arms. Milt “The Judge” Hinton, in particular, would take him around on gigs and “baby me.” Davis believes that that the reason he was accepted is that bassists tend to be easygoing. “They say that bass players are the most stable ones,” he says, “because their position is being the bottom, the foundation.”

In 1957, he got a call from the singer Sarah Vaughan, with whom he toured for the next three years, earning his “doctorate in accompanying” from “the University of Sarah Vaughan.”

“She was so musical,” he recalls. “I went everywhere with her, and everywhere she was a sensation! You learned so much about the music from being in that street atmosphere  —  more than you could ever learn on a campus.”

It didn’t hurt matters that the other members of the rhythm section were the pianist/arranger Jimmy Jones and Roy Haynes. Davis recorded four albums with her: “Swingin’ Easy,” “Vaughan and Violins,” “Dreamy” and “No Count Sarah” (with the Basie band, except Ronnell Bright fills in for the Count). He says that he tries to imitate the Divine One’s vocal sounds on his bass.

In the late 1950s, he also worked with Kenny Burrell, took graduate courses at the Manhattan School of Music, and began collaborating with Gunther Schuller (1925-2015), known for his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet. The composer was experimenting with a new type of music called Third Stream that combined elements of European classical music with jazz improvisation, a perfect setting for Davis, who has dabbled in many genres of music. Schuller played French horn on landmark sessions as Miles’ “Birth of the Cool” (1957), Dizzy’s “Gillespiana” and John Lewis’ “The Golden Striker” (both from 1960). Along with Jimmy Owens, Davis later appeared on Joe Zawinul’s 1968 “The Rise and Fall of the Third Stream.”

In 1961, after a chance meeting with Eric Dolphy on the subway, Davis worked at the Half Note in a quintet with trumpeter Booker Little. In 1963, he appeared on the iconoclastic Eric Dolphy’s “Iron Man,” including a haunting duet on Ellington’s “Come Sunday” with bowed bass and bass clarinet. In 1964, he worked with Dolphy again on “Out to Lunch,” one of the most seminal Blue Note recordings of the 1960s, which features an 18-year old Tony Williams, but Davis remembers little about this particular session because it took place so long ago! Four months later, Dolphy died suddenly after going into diabetic shock. He was only 36.

Davis felt musically free during his stint with Dolphy (who, he recalls, turned him on to swordfish), and took part in the so-called “avant-garde” or “freedom music” of the 1960s and 70s, personified by Ornette Coleman. “When it comes to freer music, the chords didn’t matter that much,” Davis explains. “It was what you’re hearing around you and what you’re hearing in your own head that shaped the circle of musical events.”

“Limiting yourself to a particular set of notes and chords,” he adds, “is in a sense being a slave to the powers that be. We were resisting being imprisoned by chord changes, trying to free ourselves from the restrictions of scales and rhythms. Some people call this free music. Some of us called it our music. Unrestricted, indefinable, and free.”

I had a gig one time with Andrew Hill and Richard. We played a house party someplace. I fit like two left shoes ‘cause them muthafuckers were out to lunch and I am talking about [sings a swinging cymbal beat]. So Richard turns around and says, “You’re swinging too much!” That’s the first time someone told me that I was swinging too much. I didn’t know what to do. I just started sweating and trying to figure out something crazy to play….

—  Mickey Roker, drummer

Starting in the mid-1960s, he spent a dozen years anchoring the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, which held court at the Village Vanguard on Monday nights; Davis played both acoustic and electric. Perhaps the most influential big band since the Swing Era, it broke up in 1978 when Jones moved to Denmark, but forty years later you can still see the vestiges of the original band, as the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra continues to perform Monday nights at the Vanguard.

Davis won a whole slew of awards during his tenure in New York. Downbeat named him Best Bassist for seven years in a row, from 1967 to 1974.

In all, over the course of his roughly 60-year career, Davis has appeared on more than 3,000 recordings (including jingles). His first date as co-leader, “Heavy Sounds” (1967), features an extended solo on “Summertime” that might well have left Gershwin scratching his head. Davis’ debut as leader, “Muses for Richard Davis,” was released in 1969. He has recorded at least six albums each with the drummer Elvin Jones, saxophonist Booker Ervin, and pianist Andrew Hill, yet another Chicago native.

One of the most in-demand bassists for many labels both big (Blue Note, Impulse!, Prestige, Atlantic, Verve, and Columbia) and small (SteepleChase, Flying Dutchman, Solid State, Cobblestone, Argo, Contemporary, Riverside, and Strata-East), he led six dates for Muse Records between 1972 and 1977.

During one two-year stretch in the early 1970s, he worked with Hubert Laws, Joe Chambers, Marlena Shaw, Charles Mingus, Sonny Stitt, Phil Woods, Reuben Wilson, Lou Donaldson, Brother Jack McDuff, Mickey Tucker, and Candido. Over the course of his career, he has worked with just about everyone else as well, including  —  to name just a dozen  —  the saxophonists Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Lucky Thompson, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, and James Moody, as well as J.J. Johnson, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, and Earl “Fatha” Hines.

Davis and his old pal Clifford Jordan first recorded together in 1965 on Jordan’s tribute to Leadbelly, “These Are My Roots.” They teamed up again three years later on Cedar Walton’s “Spectrum,” which also featured Blue Mitchell and Jack DeJohnette (yet another Chicago native). In 1990, Davis and Jordan made their final recording together as co-leaders on “Four Play,” with James Williams and Ronnie Burrage. It had been more than half a century since Richard and Cliff first crossed paths; the saxophonist passed three years later.

According to composer and bassist Linda Oh, Davis has “a wide palette of skill sets” and “shows strength and versatility without compromising integrity and individuality, something many bassists can only dream to achieve.”

“Richard has played in every musical setting you could imagine,” says the bassist Rufus Reid, “whether it be performing in a symphonic orchestra, recording jingles, recording jazz records, and then playing until dawn in a club in the bowels of the village in New York… and he might be doing all of that in one day!” (Indeed, he once worked with Stravinsky during the day and then with Kenny Dorham the same night.)

“Good players will say, don’t specialize and focus on one music,” Davis says, echoing his old teacher Capt. Dyett. “That’s what’s so good about New York. Playing in different atmospheres, different ensembles, different kinds of music. And that’s what made it so much fun.”

Although he is equally virtuosic at plucking and bowing, and has guested with several orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, Davis has never been hired full-time by a symphony orchestra, due to the fact, in his opinion, that he’s an African-American. In the not-too-distant past, management was reluctant to hire a black man especially when touring the South. Nevertheless, he has followed the batons of some of the giants of 20th-century classical music, including George Szell (the Cleveland Orchestra), Leopold Stokowski (in Philadelphia), and Pierre Boulez.

Davis also lent his services to a wide range of pop, folk, and even rock acts. In the 1960s and 70s, he worked with everyone from Streisand (six albums early in her career) and Sinatra (on his forgettable “Watertown,” released in 1970), to Laura Nyro (“Smile”) and, according to a bio, John Lennon.

Back in the day, when various contractors would call him and ask if he wanted work, Davis would sometimes show up not knowing anything about the artist. Such was the case with Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks,” featuring in one critic’s view “the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album.” During this 1968 session, Davis never even said hello to the Northern Irish singer-songwriter. “He came in and went into a booth, and that’s where he stayed, isolated in a booth,” Davis says, adding that “he seemed very shy.”

Davis can also be heard on such mega-hits as Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like a Rock” and Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” and he also contributed to one track on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, voted one of the greatest rock albums of all time. “Meeting Across the River” appears on the B-side of the title track, on which Davis does not play.

Part III: Madison, 1977-2017

Many minority students say, ‘Man, I feel isolated here. People just ignore me.’ They often end up in tears because of the way they’re treated, because some insensitive professor’s behavior doesn’t make students feel they’re part of the whole system.

—  Richard Davis

In 1977, Davis began the third major phase of his life and career, leaving New York in the soot after 23 productive years and relocating to Wisconsin, where he plays music and teaches at the University and occasionally goes on tour.

Not long after he had finished unpacking his bags, he began to notice a marked difference between New York and Madison: Not too many of his students and fellow teachers looked like him. Davis soon discovered that the university ranks only #1,194th in the nation in terms of racial diversity. Less than three percent of the student body is African-American.

By contrast, Davis’ hometown of Chicago is 45 percent white and 32 percent black, while New York (where some 600 languages are spoken) is 44 percent white and 25 percent black. Madison is considerably more bucolic as well, with a population of a quarter of a million versus Chicago’s 2.7 million and New York’s 8.4 million.

Davis’ full title is professor of bass (European classical and jazz), jazz history, and combo improvisation. He has also shown a passion for fighting discrimination of all kinds, on campus, in Madison, and beyond. A member of the so-called “anti-racist” movement, he has become something of the campus gadfly, prodding people to rethink the way they view race, and do something about it.

He is an advocate on numerous fronts, most importantly as president of the Madison Wisconsin Institute for the Healing of Racism, established in 1989, which holds workshops for students, faculty, and community members. The nonprofit group’s mission is to raise consciousness about the history and pathology of racism and help heal racism in individuals, communities, and institutions both locally and across the country.

One of Davis’ workshops is called “Racial Conditioning: The Oneness of Humankind” whose participants, for whatever reason, tend to be mostly white women. On the reading list are five books, including Paul Kivel’s Uprooting Racism, described as “a book about racism for white people.” Kivel believes that racial discrimination “is most effectively treated as a white problem” and that it’s up to white people, and only white people, to get rid of it.

As Judy Katz writes in “White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training,” “We must not place the burden of changing white attitudes and behavior upon the members of minority races. It is not their responsibility to help us to change. The responsibility/accountability is ours.”

Professor Davis also encouraged me to read (and I perused) Garlinda Burton’s “Never Say Nigga Again,” Tim Wise’s “White Like Me,” and Nathan Rutstein’s “Healing Racism in America.”

Davis agrees with the theory that all human beings can trace their roots back to a single common ancestor, a woman who lived in what is now Ethiopia some 200,000 years ago  —  “the African Eve.” As a result, he has taken to signing his correspondences “Cousin Richard,” because “a black woman in Africa shared her DNA with us,” and thus, we’re all cousins, regardless of our skin color. Sun Ra would be smiling down on him. Old-school Richard Davis has turned New Age. Music on a global level.

During the workshops, “I talk to people about forgiveness and non-vindictiveness — don’t try to get somebody back. The best representative of that is Mandela. He forgave those people who had him in prison for 27 years. That’s wisdom. If we go fighting back at each other, back and forth, nobody comes out on top.” One participant noted that, rather than talking about himself, Davis prefers to share stories about his students, collaborators, mentors, and especially his daughter, Persia.

In addition to his work at the Institute, he is an advisor to the university’s RAP (Retention Action Project), a program that examines the campus’ slow progress in enrolling, keeping, and graduating students of color, and he serves as a university diversity liaison with the goal of hiring more minority faculty members. He is involved with a number of other groups, such as PREA (Promoting Racial and Ethnic Awareness), ELAT (Everybody Listens and Talks), SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), and Pathways to Excellence. He also serves on the Campus Climate Committee.

As for his day job, Davis states that European classical music “is the only thing I’m required to teach,” such as concertos, sonatas, and orchestral repertoire. When bassists are interested in jazz, he’ll split the lesson in two parts, but surprisingly, he says, most of his bassists aren’t interested in jazz.

Not partial to one genre or the other, he is given to quoting Duke Ellington, that there are only two types of music, “good music, and the other kind.” Davis’ classes tend to have a decidedly activist bent. In a course entitled “Black Music, 1920 to the Present: The Saxophone,” his students learn that Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time” is not merely an important jazz composition, but an emblem of black empowerment and pride, with a call to action in its very title. “Charlie Parker was our Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart,” Davis observes. “It was our music. Parker didn’t just change the saxophone. He changed how we look at music. Jazz has a classical period, too, and it began before white people starting playing it.”

Davis’ courses are personalized, as seen through the lens of his own firsthand experience growing up in a racially divided Chicago. “He wants his students to learn the why behind the music,” according to a former student. “He puts the music into historical and human perspective, teaching about racial injustice, boundaries, black pride, and culture, and how these elements were responsible for the birth of a new style of American music.”

Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Professor Davis whether he thought a certain saxophone solo could be fully analyzed. I was referring to Gunther Schuller’s famous article about Sonny Rollins’ improvisation on “Blue 7.” According to Davis, someone showed the article to Rollins who, after reading it, said he had no idea what Schuller was talking about!

How much do you listen to recorded music, and by whom? “I listen to a lot of music, but only sporadically, in the background  —  mostly saxophonists, like Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Joe Henderson, and Johnny Hodges.”

Do you practice? “I practice when the mood hits me, depending on what I want to get done. I’m also always practicing when I’m with my students.”

Do you still go on tour? “Not as much as I used to. I’m playing with Archie Shepp in October in Italy.” [The two previously recorded a CD of duets, Body and Soul.]

Lastly, I asked the Professor whether he thinks we’ve made much progress in terms of race relations since the civil rights movement. His unequivocal answer caught me a little off-guard.


Richard Davis Discography


Persia My Dear (1977)

Richard Davis/John Hicks, The Bassist: Homage to Diversity and So in Love (both 2001)


Andrew Hill, Black Fire (with Roy Haynes)

Booker Ervin, The Freedom Book

Cedar Walton Plays Cedar Walton

Charles Mingus, Let My Children Hear Music

Clifford Jordan, In the World

Earl Hines, Once Upon a Time

Elvin Jones/McCoy Tyner Quintet, Love & Peace

Joe Henderson, In ’n Out

Kenny Dorham, Trompeta Toccata

Kenny Burrell, A Night at the Vanguard (with Roy Haynes)

Lucky Thompson, Lucky Strikes

Mal Waldron, Sweet Love, Bitter (with Charles Davis)

Mickey Tucker and Roland Hanna, The New Heritage Keyboard Quartet

Milt Jackson, For Someone I Love (big band)

One More: The Music of Thad Jones (two volumes; with Jimmy Owens)

Phil Woods, Musique du Bois

The Jaki Byard Experience (with Roland Kirk)

Tony Williams, Life Time (the drummer’s debut as leader)

Read the full article here.

Richard Davis (USA, 1971) – The Philosophy of the Spiritual (Full Album)

Track List:

A1Dear Old Stockholm 5:36
A3Oh My God9:27
B1The Rabbi7:23
B2Baby Sweets6:18
B3Juan Valdez


Richard Davis - bass
Chick Corea - piano
Bill Lee - bass
Sam Brown - guitar
Sonny Brown - drums
Frankie Dunlop - percussion
sheet music library

It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive our new posts in your inbox.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.