Jesse Davis | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Jesse Davis


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Over the last 15 or 20 years, the alto saxophone has reclaimed some of the luster it ceded--to the tenor (in the 50s and 60s) and the soprano (in the 70s and 80s)--through the well-documented efforts of several diverse players: Tim Berne, Donald Harrison, Steve Wilson, and Chicago's Ernest Dawkins. Why isn't Jesse Davis on the list? Well, at first listen, his sound too faithfully reflects the influence of Cannonball Adderley and Phil Woods (especially in his voluptuous, textured tone) and, to a lesser extent, Jackie McLean. In the 50s and 60s each of these men focused on a different aspect of the style of their mentor, Charlie Parker, and created something distinct: Adderley ran with Parker's darkened tone and bluesy ebullience, Woods homed in on the complicated passions lurking behind the speedy technique, and McLean built upon the angry pain and anarchic freedom that Parker had begun to expose. The 37-year-old Davis has yet to develop as strikingly original an MO as any of his heroes--but he distinguishes himself by balancing and reintegrating their styles in a way that recaptures some of the unexploded-kernel quality of Parker's sound. Davis's work has evolved nicely over the course of seven albums--the latest, Second Nature (Concord), came out in 2000--which suggests that his best work may still await us. In Chicago, he hooks up with the well-seasoned trio led by pianist Ron Perrillo. Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, November 3, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. Saturday, November 2, 1 PM, Jazz Record Mart, 444 N. Wabash; 312-222-1467.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.

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