Will Davis

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Pianist Will Davis was eventually obscured in the shuffle of similar-sounding jazzmen, in name as well as in style. His single album as a leader came out in 1959, a trio session entitled Have Mood, Will…
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Pianist Will Davis was eventually obscured in the shuffle of similar-sounding jazzmen, in name as well as in style. His single album as a leader came out in 1959, a trio session entitled Have Mood, Will Call on the Sue label, a firm whose name sounds more like brash legal advice than a record company. This album, combined with Davis' work on the bebop scene since the '40s, earned him a spot in Leonard Feather's Encyclopedia of Jazz in the '60s. But by a few decades later, even jazz buffs probably thought Will Davis was an encyclopedia entry on organist Wild Bill Davis missing a handful of letters.

Davis was raised in Chicago; his father was a clarinetist. The young man studied music initially with a private teacher in Virginia, then entered the Detroit Conservatory. He began gigging with bandleaders such as Snookum Russell and Paul Bascomb, becoming associated with new jazz directions through performances and recordings with trumpeter Howard McGhee. During the second half of the '40s, Davis was part of a scene of Detroit jazz players including important vibraphonist Milt Jackson, brilliant tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray, and perilously choppy saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Davis' own trio backed out-of-town stars such as Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis, the latter no family relation. While some of his associates were known for dazzling complexity, pianist Davis apparently never missed a chance to insert a funky touch.