Charles Davis (saxophonist)

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Charles Davis
Charles Davis Unterfahrt 2009-10-01-002.jpg
Background information
Born(1933-05-20) May 20, 1933 (age 81)
GenresHard bop, soul jazz, modal jazz, jazz rock
OccupationsSaxophonist, composer, teacher
LabelsStrata-East, Nilva, West 54, Red
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Charles Davis
Charles Davis Unterfahrt 2009-10-01-002.jpg
Background information
Born(1933-05-20) May 20, 1933 (age 81)
GenresHard bop, soul jazz, modal jazz, jazz rock
OccupationsSaxophonist, composer, teacher
LabelsStrata-East, Nilva, West 54, Red

Charles Davis, an American jazz saxophonist, was born in Goodman, Mississippi on May 20, 1933. He was educated in Chicago schools and first played the alto saxophone soon to be followed by the tenor saxophone and the baritone saxophone.

He performed extensively with Archie Shepp and Sun Ra, among others.[1]


Davis was born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago. He graduated from DuSable High School, after which he studied at the Chicago School of Music. Davis was also a private student of John Hauser.

In the 1950s he played in the bands of Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Sun Ra, and Dinah Washington. He Performed and recorded with Kenny Dorham with whom he had a musical association that lasted many years.

In the 1960s he performed and recorded with Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison, Illinois Jacquet, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Steve Lacy, Ahmad Jamal and worked with Blue Mitchell, Erskine Hawkins, John Coltrane, Clifford Jordan, among others. In 1964 he won Downbeat Magazine's International Jazz Critics Poll for the baritone saxophone. He performed in the musical production of The Philosophy of The Spiritual – A Masque of the Black under the direction of Willie Jones and the auspices of Nadi Qamar. Davis taught at PS 179 in Brooklyn and was musical director of The Turntable, a nightclub owned by Lloyd Price.

In the 1970s he was 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 featuring six baritone saxophones; made European tours of major jazz festivals and concerts with the Clark Terry Orchestra; and toured the USA with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington. As musical director of the Home of the Id nightclub, he presented artists such as Gene Ammons, Randy Weston, and Max Roach. As the producer of the Monday Night Boat Ride Up The Hudson, he presented, among others, Art Blakey, George Benson, and Etta Jones. Davis made TV appearances with Archie Shepp, Lucky Thompson, Ossie Davis, and Ruby Dee.

In the 1980s he performed and recorded with the Philly Joe Jones Quartet, 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, the Jazz in Sardinia Festiva, and the La Spezia Festival. Was the musical director of the Syncopation nightclub. Performed in the movie, The Man with Perfect Timing with Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1984 he was named a “BMI Jazz Pioneer.”

In the 1980s he was the 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. He was in the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame Band accompanying such stars as Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, among 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. Was the tenor saxophonist and a major contributor of musical arrangements with Larry Ridley's Jazz Legacy Ensemble which appeared at the Senegal Jazz Festival, performed concerts and conducted clinics, seminars and master classes. This ensemble also appeared in an ongoing concert series at the famed Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 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. Performed in the Three Baritone Saxophone Band with Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan, which toured Italy, appeared at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the 1998 JVC Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana in Rome, and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London. Charles was also a featured soloist at the 1998 Chicago Jazz Festival. In June 1999, he performed with Aaron Bell and the Duke Ellington Tribute Orchestra at the Jackie Robinson “Afternoon of Jazz” Festival in Norwalk, CT. Featured artist at the 1999 Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana in Rome.

Since 2000 he has been the featured artist at the Blue Note in Beirut, Lebanon as well as numerous other clubs in Italy and Spain and at the 2000 Jazz & Image Festival at Villa Celimontana. Performed with his quartet on the “M.S. Dynasty,” a Carnival Lines Cruise ship. Produced and performed in the “Tribute to Stanley Turrentine” concert in Philadelphia. In August 2001, he performed for President Bill Clinton at the “Harlem Welcomes Clinton” celebration. The Barry Harris/Charles Davis Quintet appeared several times at Sweet Basil in New York City. They continue to perform together in various venues including yearly appearances at Birdland. In August 2004, they performed in the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival. He was a featured artist at the 14th Annual Jazz Festival in Badajoz, Spain and was a member of the Walter Booker Quintet. He performed with his quartet at New York's Rubin Museum of Art, performed in the Netherlands and toured Denmark and Israel. In addition to performing and recording with the guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the El Mollenium Band (featuring the music of Elmo Hope), In 2009 he toured Germany, Austria,Switzerland and Italy with the Charles Davis Allstars: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham and in 2010 this quintet performed in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Charles also performs with the Spirit of Life Ensemble and his own quartet, featuring Tardo Hammer (piano), Lee Hudson (bass) and Jimmy Wormworth (drums) in the United States and Europe.

Davis is a saxophone instructor of private students from The New School, a teacher at the Lucy Moses School and for over 25 years has been an instructor at the Jazzmobile Workshops. He has made eight of his own albums and is featured on over 100 recordings. Some of his CDs as a leader include Blue Gardenia, with Cedar Walton on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, released on Reade Street Records; Land of Dreams, with Tardo Hammer, Lee Hudson and Jimmy Wormworth, released in 2007 on Smalls Records; and Our Man in Copenhagen, released in October 2008, on Fresh Sound Records, with Sam Yahel, Ben Street, and Kresten Osgood on which they play the music of Bent Jaedig. Just released in 2010 is The Charles Davis Allstars: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham with Tom Kirkpatrick on trumpet, Claus Raible on piano, Giorgos Antoniou on bass and Bernd Reiter on drums. This CD was recorded live at the Bird's Eye in Basel, Switzerland.


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

Live in New YorkReservoir Music

Barry Harris

Anna’s DanceReservoir Music

Roni Ben-Hur

Golden BoyColpix

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

Down Here BelowVerve Records

Jeffery Smith

Bert’s BluesConsolidated Artists CAP

Nancie Banks Orchestra

Ways of PeaceConsolidated Artists CAP

Nancie Banks Orchestra

Down Through The YearsMilestone Records

Clifford Jordan

OasisMuse Records

Shirley Scott

The Hearinga SuiteBlack Saint Records

Muhal Richard Abrams


Abdullah Ibrahim

Water from an Ancient WellEkapa

Abdullah Ibrahim

Saxotic StompMuse Records

Ricky Ford

Filet de SoleJazz Unite Records

Philly Joe Jones

To Tadd With LoveUptown Records

Philly Joe Jones

Stop, Look and ListenUptown Records

Philly Joe Jones

Manhattan ProjectBeehive

Dizzy Reece

Cedar Walton PlaysDelos

Cedar Walton


Cedar Walton

Breakthrough!Buddah Records

Cedar Walton/Hank Mobley

Breath of LifeMuse Records

Louis Hayes

Numatik Swing BandJCOA

Roswell Rudd & the Jazz Composer's Orchestra

Haitian BellsAlex Pascal
Live at Buddy’s PlaceVanguard

Clark Terry

Live at the Wichita Jazz FestivalVanguard

Clark Terry

Illumination!Impulse! Records

Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison

And Then AgainAtlantic Records

Elvin Jones

Jazz ContemporaryTime

Kenny Dorham

The Arrival of Kenny DorhamXanadu Records

Kenny Dorham

Doin' the Thang!Prestige Records

Ronnie Mathews

Dinah Sings Fats WallerEmarcy

Dinah Washington

Dinah Sings Bessie SmithEmarcy

Dinah Washington

What a Diff'rence a Day Makes!Mercury Records

Dinah Washington


Eddie Chamblee

The Straight Horn of Steve LacyCandid Records

Steve Lacy

Jamaica FarewellArgo Records

Ahmad Jamal

J.G. Big BandRiverside Records

Johnny Griffin

Banded in BostonEpic

Illinois Jacquet


Julian Priester

Sweet Love, Bitter (soundtrack)Impulse

Mal Waldron

The Soul SocietyRiverside

Sam Jones

The Body & the SoulImpulse

Freddie Hubbard


Jazz Composers Orchestra

Reggae au Go GoRoy Burrowes
For LosersImpulse!

Archie Shepp

KwanzaImpulse!Archie Shepp
The Way AheadImpulse!

Archie Shepp

Estimated Time of ArrivalRoulette Records

Bobby Watson

Sound Sun Pleasure!!Sun Ra
Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra Visits Planet EarthSun Ra
Jazz in SilhouetteSun Ra
Super-Sonic JazzSun Ra
Interstellar Low WaysSun Ra
New York City R&BCecil Taylor
Jumpin' PunkinsCecil Taylor