Blind John Davis

1938-1952, Vol. 1

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Although he was an active session pianist in the 1930s and 1940s, working with artists like Jazz Gillum, Casey Bill Weldon, Memphis Minnie, and was an architect of the Chicago blues style through his work with Big Bill Broonzy and Sonny Boy Williamson, Chicago native John Henry Davis remained relatively unknown in the U.S. throughout his career. Davis was a solidly professional player, and his approach embraced nearly all aspects of the American piano styles, from blues and jazz to straight pop and R&B, always with a bright, almost leisurely, sound. This collection from Document gathers up some of his early sides as a bandleader (his later recordings were mostly done in Europe, where he maintained a large and loyal following), and they show both his versatility and his remarkable ability to make everything sound offhand, comfortable, and slightly jazzy, traits that figured in his mature style, which could easily be termed lounge blues. Highlights here include the explosive yet controlled "Anna Lou Breakdown," the measured and gentle vocal on "No Mail Today," and the soaring and gliding "Magic Carpet." Davis was seldom flashy, so it is easy to miss the subtle artistry he brought to everything he played, and he remains one of the most unsung of America's blues-based piano greats.

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