Sunday, August 05, 2007

Jazz Bassist Art Davis Dies At 73

Renowned double bassist Art Davis, who played with John Coltrane and other jazz greats, has died aged 73.

The musician died at home last week after a heart attack, his son Kimaili Davis told the Los Angeles Times.

As well as playing for Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan and Louis Armstrong, Davis was a psychologist and balanced gigs with appointments to see patients.

"He was adventurous with his approach to playing music," said pianist and recent collaborator Nate Morgan.

"It takes a certain amount of integrity to step outside the box and say: 'I like it here and I'm going to hang here for a while.'"

Accomplished

Davis began studying piano at the age of five in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he was born in 1933.

He switched to bass after starting school, and studied with the principal double bassist at the Philadelphia Orchestra.

But when he tried out for his hometown's symphony, the audition committee was so unduly harsh that conductor Edwin MacArthur questioned their objectivity.

"The answer was: 'Well, he's coloured,' and there was silence," Davis recalled in a 2002 interview with Double Bassist magazine.

"Finally MacArthur burst out: 'If you don't want him, then you don't want me.' So they quickly got together and accepted me."

Davis made his first recording at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 with Max Roach's group - which also included the legendary trumpeter Booker Little and saxophonist George Coleman.

He then met John Coltrane while performing with Roach's band at Harlem's Small's Paradise club in the late 1950s.

The pair instantly hit it off, and Davis described his collaborations with the saxophonist as the most intense and musically enriching experiences of his career - although he declined an offer to be part of Coltrane's touring band.

Discrimination

A versatile and accomplished musician, he also found success playing classical music with the New York Philharmonic, as part of the orchestra on Broadway shows, and on popular recordings by the likes of Judy Garland and Hank Williams.

But his fortunes waned in the 1970s after he filed an unsuccessful discrimination lawsuit against the New York Philharmonic.

Like other black musicians who challenged job hiring practices at the time, he lost work and industry connections.

Partly as a result, he returned to school, earning a PhD in clinical psychology from New York University in 1982.

Davis moved to southern California in 1986, where he spent the rest of his life teaching and practising psychology, as well as playing concerts, clubs and recordings.

Besides Kimaili, Davis is survived by another son and a daughter.

BBC

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