Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Davis, Xavier (Duane)
Davis, Xavier (Duane), pianist, composer; b. Grand Rapids, MI, 13 September 1971. Xavier currently resides in West Orange, New Jersey with his wife, Amy Catherine Davis (maiden name O'Connor, and son, Joshua Xavier Davis (b. 2001). His father, Duane Shields Davis, a music educator, was born 9/3/46 in Pittsburgh, His mother: Karetha Carlene Davis (maiden name Rice), also a music educator, was born 12/5/46 in Roanoke, VA. His sister, Erica Renee Davis, was born 10/9/73 in Grand Rapids, MI. His brother, Quincy Gerard Davis, a drummer, was born 8/27/77 in Grand Rapids, MI.
He studied piano with his mother from 1975-81, then with Dale Nyboer from 1981-84. He studied trombone with Ava Ordman from 1979-83. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy for High School from 1985-89. At Western Michigan University, he studied piano with Steve Zegree from 1991-94. He took lessons with Mulgrew Miller and James Williams from 1994-95.
Born in 1971, Xavier is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His mother began teaching him piano when he was four. Xavier started private study on the trombone in the third grade. He was a member of St. Cecilia Junior Orchestra and the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony.
Before entering the Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA) for high school, Xavier toured Europe with the Blue Lake International Orchestra. As a trombone major at IAA, he was a member of the orchestra, brass ensemble and studio orchestra. Participation in these ensembles afforded plenty of opportunity for performing and touring. One of the highlights was performing with the IAA Orchestra in the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. and Avery Fischer Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City. It was at Interlochen that Xavier began to listen to and learn the fundamentals of jazz.
Xavier's debut recording "Dance of Life" was released on Metropolitan Records in 1999. The CD features the talents of Don Braden, Dwayne Burno and Carl Allen. Xavier's compositions, "Dance of Life" and "The Plan Unknown," appear on the CD along with his arrangements of some classic standards. "The pianist [Xavier Davis] simply knows how to make every note on his instrument sing, and he invariably finds the richest area of the keyboard for voicing his chord," said writer Bob Blumenthal. Jazz Times reviewer John Murph reviewed his CD in the January/February 2000 issue of the magazine and said "...the music exudes a mature, nonchalant ease and cozy empathy that make this...a rewarding listen." Down Beat gave the CD, "Dance of Life," four stars in its January 2000 issue and said, "Davis steps out with an accomplished debut." Xavier's second recording as a leader, "Innocence of Youth," was released in April of 2002 by Fresh Sounds New Talent.
Xavier has performed with many of today's great jazz musicians. He worked with the legendary vocalist Betty Carter for nearly two years. While still in college and after participating in Ms. Carter's "Jazz Ahead" program, she hired him exclusively as her pianist. Xavier also began his professional career working with drummer, Carl Allen. He has worked with trumpeter Tom Harrell regularly since June of 1997. He is also a member of vibraphonist Stefon Harris' quartet. In addition, Xavier has performed and/or recorded with Freddie Hubbard, Abbey Lincoln, Joe Lovano, Donald Byrd, Bob Berg, Joe Chambers, Gary Bartz, John Faddis, Nat Adderley, Nicholas Payton, Wessell Anderson, Vincent Herring, Antonio Hart, Don Braden, The New Jazz Composer's Octet, Ron Blake, Greg Tardy, Mark Shim, Vanessa Rubin, Nnenna Freelon, Randy Johnston, The New York Voices, Billy Hart, Manhattan Projects and Diahann Carroll, among others. Throughout the years Xavier has led many master classes and participated in clinics and panels.
Xavier received his bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University (WMU) where he studied piano with Dr. Stephen Zegree. He also performed in many of the ensembles including the Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra and was bandleader for Gold Company and GC II. He was also a member of the "Groov'tet," a quartet consisting of some of the most motivated jazz students at WMU. All of these ensembles won numerous regional and national awards during his tenure. Xavier has performed at numerous International Association of Jazz Educators' conventions with college and professional groups.
Gold Company: Lovelight (1993); Manhattan Projects: Tribute to Lee Morgan (1994), We Remember Cannonball (1994); Betty Carter: I'm Yours, You're Mine (1996); The Groov'tet: Groov'tet (1996); Anna-Lisa Kirby: Shades of Blue (1997); Wessell Anderson: Live at the Village Vanguard (1997); Randy Johnston: Homage (1998); Greg Tardy: The Hidden Light (1998); Tom Harrell: Times Mirror (1998); The New Jazz Composer's Octet: First Steps Into Reality (1998); Xavier Davis: Dance of Life (1998); Craig Handy: Flow (2000); Leon Parker: The Simple Life (2000); Don Braden: Brighter Days (2000); Freddie Hubbard: New Colors (2000) Tom Harrell: Paradise (2000); David Weiss: Breathing Room (2001); Stefon Harris: The Grand Unification Theory (2001); Tom Harrell Quintet: Live at the Village Vanguard (2001); The New Jazz Composer's Octet: Walkin' the Line (2001); The Xavier Davis Trio: Innocence of Youth (2002); Tom Harrell: Wise Children (2003); Stefon Harris: Evolution (2004); Jimmy Greene: Forever (2004); Steve Davis: Meant To Be (2004)
Film and television soundtracks:
Played on "Cosby" soundtrack incidental music 2000-2001
received a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to compose an extended work for "The New Jazz Composer's Octet (2000)
Presser Scholar (an outstanding Junior music major); selected by vote of the music faculty of the WMU School of Music (1993)
named as Outstanding Soloist at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival ('92 & '93)
named as Outstanding Soloist at the Aquinas College Intercollegiate Jazz Festival ('92 & '93)
named as Outstanding Soloist at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Detroit (1993)
College Solo Winner by Down Beat magazine ('92 & '93)
Down Beat recognized his combo, Groov'tet, as Outstanding Collegiate combo (1993)
selected to give a jazz recital for the International Gilmore Keyboard Festival. (1993)
Awarded an Emerging Artist grant by The Gilmore Foundation to study in New York City (1993)
recipient of the WMU Jazz Studies Music Scholarship ('91-94)
recipient of the Alma Perry and Elisabeth Anne Irish Memorial Scholarships, under the auspices of the Saint Cecilia Music Society of Grand Rapids. (1991)