Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Davis, Charles (A.)

Davis, Charles (A.), baritone saxophonist, soprano and tenor saxophonist; b.Goodman, Mississippi (not Michigan), May 20, 1933.
His father was Lindsey Davis, his mother Vernell Coleman Davis, both deceased.

Raised in Chicago from 1936, he graduated from DuSable High School (1949-52), studied at the Chicago School of Music from 1948 to 1950 and was a private student of John Hauser (1951-4). In the mid-50s he began freelancing around Chicago including gigs with Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Dinah Washington and Jack McDuff. He first worked with Sun Ra in 1954 and continues to work with the band on occasion to this day. Pat Patrick of the band sold him his first baritone saxophone. Moving to New York in 1959, he worked from 1959 until 1962 in Kenny Dorham's group, a period that helped establish his reputation and a musical association that lasted many years. Davis played with John Coltrane at the Cork 'n Bib,Westbury, Long Island, NY., probably October 1962, and at the Half Note, at Lincoln Center, and in Philadelphia. He also performed and recorded with Illinois Jacquet, Lionel Hampton, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Steve Lacy, Ahmad Jamal, Blue Mitchell, Erskine Hawkins, Clifford Jordan, and others from the mid-60s.
In 1964 he won Downbeat Magazine's International Jazz Critics Poll for the baritone saxophone. In the 1960s he also performed in the musical production of "The Philosophy of The Spiritual-A Masque of the Black"  under the direction of drummer Willie Jones and the auspices of Nadi Qumar.  He taught at PS 179 in Brooklyn and was musical director of The Turntable, a nightclub owned by Lloyd Price in Manhattan, at the space where the original Birdland was located. He performed with the Jazz Composer's Orchestra for most of its existence (ca. 1966-76).

He was in the 1970s a member of the cooperative group "Artistry in Music" with Hank Mobley, Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Billy Higgins; was the co-leader and composer/arranger for the Baritone Saxophone Retinue, a group founded in 1974 featuring six baritone saxophones; made European tours of major jazz festivals and concerts with the Clark Terry Orchestra (1977-79); and toured the USA with Duke Ellington's Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington in 1979 and went to Acapulco with them in 1986. In 1978 he worked with the Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Orchestra.  He was musical director of the Home of the Id nightclub in Brooklyn, presenting Gene Ammons, Randy Weston, Max Roach, as well as producer of Monday Night Boat Ride Up The Hudson presenting Art Blakey, George Benson, and Etta Jones. 

In the '80s he performed and recorded with the Philly Joe Jones Quartet and his "Dameronia" and with Abdullah Ibrahim's "Ekaya" in the United States, Europe and Africa.  Toured Europe with the "Savoy Seven Plus 1: A Salute to Benny Goodman."  With his own quartet, performed in Rome, at the Bologna Jazz Festival, Jazz in Sardinia Festival, and the La Spezia Festival.  Was the musical director of the Syncopation nightclub in Greenwich Village. He performed in the documentary, "A Brother with Perfect Timing" about Abdullah Ibrahim (1987). In 1984 he was named a "BMI Jazz Pioneer."
In the 90's he was musical librarian for Spike Lee's "Mo Better Blues"; performed at the Jamaica Jazz Festival with Dizzy Reece and returned to perform with Roy Burrowes; was in the Apollo Hall of Fame Band accompanying Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, and others.  Toured Holland saluting the music of Kenny Dorham; was the guest artist at the 12th Annual North Carolina Jazz Festival at Duke University.  Featured soloist of the Barry Harris Jazz Ensemble and performs in clubs with the Barry Harris/Charles Davis Quartet.  Recorded and toured Europe and Japan with the Clifford Jordan Big Band. 

He has been the tenor saxophonist and a primary arranger for Larry Ridley's "Jazz Legacy Ensemble" which appeared at the Senagal Jazz Festival, and performs concerts and conducts clinics, seminars and master classes.  This ensemble also appears in an ongoing concert series at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.  Was a featured artist at the Amman, Jordan Jazz Festival, arranged by the American Embassy.  Was also the featured artist in clubs and concerts in Paris, Toulouse and Hamburg.  Appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in an original production of Eduardo Machado's "Stevie Wants to Play the Blues,"directed by Jim Simpson.  He performed in the baritone saxophone group with Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan in New Orleans, Rome, and Oslo, in 1998, in March 1999 at Ronnie Scott's in London. They toured Italy in July 1999. Davis was also a featured soloist at the 1998 Chicago Jazz Festival.

He teaches private students through The New School, is a teacher at the Lucy Moses School and for over 20 years has been an instructor at the Jazzmobile Workshops.  He has made four albums as a leader and is featured on over 50 as a sideperson. Since moving to NYC in 1959 he has lived in Brooklyn, Staten Island and now resides in Manhattan.His wife is Lori Samet-Davis.

Reflections   (1990;
Super 80 (1982();
Dedicated to Tadd  (1980;
Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison: Illuminations (1963)

Downbeat article in 1965.

Television broadcasts:
Performed with Archie Shepp and Randy Weston on Gil Noble's "Like It Is" (ABC). Lucky Thompson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee was on PBS (Channel 13).

Contact information:
201 East 19th Street, #9E
New York, NY  10003
TEL:  212-777-8239, FAX: 212-614-8103

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