Sunday, March 30, 2014

Back in Richard Davis' room

Richard Davis' CV is damn impressive. Seriously; check it out. One could compile an all-legend lineup of the men he recorded with: Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, saxophone; Elvin Jones, drummer; Charles Mingus, composer. You would give up 10 years of your life to hear this bunch in a live setting. Don't try and deny it. Davis also did recording work with a number of other highly influential jazz artists, including saxophonist Booker Ervin, pianist Andrew Hill, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

And so here's the thing: finding an entry point for Davis' career can be challenging. Where do you begin? His resume is littered with classics, each one begging you to give it a whirl. Friday, during my lunch break, I chose Dolphy's Out to Lunch!, for no other reason than it has luscious blue cover art. (It's also regarded as a masterpiece of the free jazz sub-genre. So it looks good and sounds good.)

On Out to Lunch!'s title track, Davis exhibits a puerile recklessness that you don't hear on Astral Weeks. One snippet of his bass solo reminds me of the classic tip-toeing cartoon character: quick and exaggerated steps, balanced on their toes, an index finger placed over the lips. But just as quickly as that image forms, it vanishes. Davis' notes then fall and tumble and bump into one another, like a child spilling a bucketful of blocks across the floor. Then my favorite part: the bassist plays the same notes over and over, almost as if he's gleefully mocking himself. Now we're having some fun.

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