Charles Davis (saxophonist)

Last updated
Charles Davis
Charles Davis Unterfahrt 2009-10-01-002.jpg
Davis in Munich, October 2009
Background information
Born(1933-05-20)May 20, 1933
DiedJuly 15, 2016(2016-07-15) (aged 83)
Genres Hard bop, soul jazz, modal jazz, jazz rock
Occupation(s)Saxophonist, composer, teacher
Labels Strata-East, Nilva, West 54, Red

Charles Davis (May 20, 1933 – July 15, 2016) was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Davis played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, and performed extensively with Archie Shepp and Sun Ra. [1] [2]



Born in Goodman, Mississippi, Davis was raised in Chicago. After being sent to boarding school at St Benedict's in Milwaukee, he graduated from DuSable High School before studying at the Chicago School of Music. Davis also studied privately with John Hauser. During the 1950s, he played with Billie Holiday, Ben Webster, Sun Ra and Dinah Washington. Davis also performed and recorded with Kenny Dorham, with whom he associated musically for many years.

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

During the 1970s, Davis was a member of the cooperative Artistry in Music with Hank Mobley, Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Billy Higgins. He co-led, composed and arranged for the Baritone Saxophone Retinue, a six-baritone-saxophone group (with rhythm section) organised with Sun Ra-associated saxophonist Pat Patrick. [3] Davis toured Europe, playing major jazz festivals and concerts with the Clark Terry Orchestra, and toured the United States with Duke Ellington’s Orchestra (by then directed by Mercer Ellington). As musical director of the Home of the Id nightclub, he presented Gene Ammons, Randy Weston and Max Roach. As producer of the Monday Night Boat Ride Up The Hudson, Davis presented Art Blakey, George Benson and Etta Jones. He appeared on television with Archie Shepp, Lucky Thompson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

During the 1980s, Davis performed and recorded with the Philly Joe Jones Quartet, Dameronia and Abdullah Ibrahim’s Ekaya in the United States, Europe and Africa and toured Europe with Savoy Seven Plus 1: A Salute to Benny Goodman. With his own quartet, he performed in Rome, at the Bologna Jazz Festival, the Jazz in Sardinia Festival and the La Spezia Festival. Davis was musical director of the Syncopation nightclub and performed in the film, The Man with Perfect Timing, with Abdullah Ibrahim. In 1984, he was named a BMI Jazz Pioneer.

Davis played in the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame Band with Ray Charles, Joe Williams and Nancy Wilson. He toured the Netherlands in a salute to the music of Kenny Dorham, and was a guest artist at the 12th annual North Carolina Jazz Festival at Duke University. A featured soloist with the Barry Harris Jazz Ensemble, Davis performs in clubs with the Barry Harris-Charles Davis Quartet. He recorded and toured Europe and Japan with the Clifford Jordan Big Band. Davis played tenor saxophonet and arranged for Larry Ridley's Jazz Legacy Ensemble, which appeared at the Senegal Jazz Festival, performed concerts and conducted clinics, seminars and master classes. The ensemble also appeared in a concert series at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He was a featured artist at the Amman Jazz Festival, produced by the American Embassy. Davis was also a featured artist in clubs and concerts in Paris, Toulouse and Hamburg. He appeared at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the original production of Eduardo Machado's Stevie Wants to Play the Blues, directed by Jim Simpson. Davis played in the Three Baritone Saxophone Band with Ronnie Cuber and Gary Smulyan (touring Italy) and 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. The saxophonist was a featured soloist at the 1998 Chicago Jazz Festival. In June 1999, Davis performed with Aaron Bell and the Duke Ellington Tribute Orchestra at the Jackie Robinson Afternoon of Jazz Festival in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was a featured artist at the 1999 Jazz & Image Festival.

Beginning in 2000, Davis was a featured artist at the Blue Note in Beirut, clubs in Italy and Spain and at the 2000 Jazz & Image Festival. With his quartet, he played on the M.S. Dynasty, a Carnival Cruise Lines ship. Davis 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 and continues to perform together, including yearly appearances at Birdland. In August 2004, they performed for the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival. Davis 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 and performed in the Netherlands, Denmark and Israel. In addition to performing and recording with guitarist Roni Ben-Hur and the El Mollenium Band (featuring the music of Elmo Hope), in 2009 Davis toured Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy with the Charles Davis All-stars: A Tribute to Kenny Dorham; the following year, the quintet performed in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. In addition to his own quartet, featuring Tardo Hammer (piano), Lee Hudson (bass) and Jimmy Wormworth (drums), the saxophonist performs with the Spirit of Life Ensemble in the U.S. and Europe.

Davis was a private saxophone instructor for students from The New School and a teacher at the Lucy Moses School. For over 25 years, he was an instructor at the Jazzmobile Workshops. Davis recorded eight albums, and was 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, 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 (the music of Bent Jædig, released in October 2008 on Fresh Sound Records, with Sam Yahel, Ben Street, and Kresten Osgood. 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  [ de ] on drums), recorded live at the Bird's Eye in Basel, Switzerland, was released in 2010.

He died in July 2016, and had a Catholic funeral at St Peter's in New York City. [4]


As leader

As sideman

Live in New YorkReservoir Music

Barry Harris

Anna's DanceReservoir Music

Roni Ben-Hur

Golden Boy Colpix

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

Down Here Below Verve

Jeffery Smith

Bert’s BluesConsolidated Artists CAP

Nancie Banks Orchestra

Ways of PeaceConsolidated Artists CAP

Nancie Banks Orchestra

Down Through the Years Milestone

Clifford Jordan

Play What You Feel Mapleshade

Clifford Jordan

Oasis Muse

Shirley Scott

The Hearinga Suite Black Saint

Muhal Richard Abrams


Abdullah Ibrahim

Water from an Ancient Well Ekapa

Abdullah Ibrahim

Saxotic Stomp Muse

Ricky Ford

Filet de Sole/Philly of SoulJazz Unite

Philly Joe Jones

To Tadd with Love Uptown

Philly Joe Jones Dameronia

Look Stop Listen Uptown

Philly Joe Jones Dameronia

Manhattan Project Bee Hive

Dizzy Reece

Cedar Walton Plays Delos

Cedar Walton

Mobius RCA

Cedar Walton

Breakthrough! Buddah

Cedar Walton/Hank Mobley

Breath of Life Muse

Louis Hayes

Numatik Swing Band JCOA

Roswell Rudd & the Jazz Composer's Orchestra

Haitian BellsAlex Pascal
Live at Buddy’s Place Vanguard

Clark Terry

Live at the Wichita Jazz FestivalVanguard

Clark Terry

Illumination! Impulse!

Elvin Jones/Jimmy Garrison

And Then Again Atlantic

Elvin Jones

Jazz Contemporary Time

Kenny Dorham

The Arrival of Kenny Dorham Xanadu

Kenny Dorham

Doin' the Thang! Prestige

Ronnie Mathews

Dinah Sings Fats Waller EmArcy

Dinah Washington

Dinah Sings Bessie SmithEmArcy

Dinah Washington

What a Diff'rence a Day Makes! Mercury

Dinah Washington


Eddie Chamblee

The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy Candid

Steve Lacy

Jamaica Farewell Argo

Ahmad Jamal

J.G. Big Band Riverside

Johnny Griffin

Banded in Boston Epic

Illinois Jacquet

Spiritsville Jazzland

Julian Priester

Sweet Love, Bitter (soundtrack)Impulse

Mal Waldron

The Soul Society Riverside

Sam Jones

The Body & the Soul Impulse!

Freddie Hubbard

Communications JCOA

Jazz Composers Orchestra

Reggae au Go GoRoy Burrowes
For Losers Impulse!

Archie Shepp

Kwanza Impulse!Archie Shepp
The Way Ahead Impulse!

Archie Shepp

Estimated Time of Arrival Roulette

Bobby Watson

Sound Sun Pleasure!! Sun Ra
Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra Visits Planet Earth Sun Ra
Jazz in Silhouette Sun Ra
Super-Sonic Jazz Sun Ra
Interstellar Low Ways Sun Ra
New York City R&B Cecil Taylor
Jumpin' Punkins Cecil Taylor
Impact Charles Tolliver

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  1. Allmusic
  2. Vacher, Peter (27 July 2016). "Charles Davis obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  3. Gupte, Pranay (July 10, 1975). "Jordan Quartet at New Jazz Fete". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  4. "The Jazz Community Mourns the Loss of Reade Street Records Musician and BMI Jazz Pioneer: Tenor and Baritone Saxophonist Charles Davis". PRWeb. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  5. "Dedicated to Tadd - Charles Davis - User Reviews - AllMusic". Retrieved 28 July 2016.