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Interviews

Alana Davis: Can You Hear Me Now?

By Published: March 17, 2005

AAJ: Exactly. So do you have anyone yet?

AD: No, I really don't. Honestly, I think this time I want to do it a little differently. This may not be the way that It ends up going down but I'm thinking I might just go to a music school and pick up a couple of young, pliable recruits. Maybe someone really open-minded, very talented jazz cats who would love to just see where we end up. I think that'd be fun, because you know the record's the record and then you really want It to be fun, you want to play, you want to have a conversation. And that's what I'm thinking, that's what my dad always did (pianist Walter Davis Jr.) and a lot of people that I respect did; not their peers but people you could mold and watch them do their thing later on.

AAJ: You were talking about your dad. What was that like growing up with a famous jazz pianist for a father? Did you see him much?

AD: Yeah, I did. We didn't really live together he was too busy planting his seeds here and there and traveling. He was always gone. But it was jazz; "famous jazz" is oxymoronic unless you're Dizzy or Wynton or one of those cats. But for the times that he became a front man—there were only a handful of those times—for that, unfortunately, he never became famous. He wrote all this music that's really cool, original stuff that's not the typical be-bop to play with his band or whatever. He did stuff that he could play with his band but he did his own stuff. He played here and there and, you know, you've got to have a place to work it out. He did some stuff that I thought was really special In the early 80's—similar to what I'm hoping I get to do—with Tom Barney (bass), Kenny Washington (drums). That was it: trio. And it was The Walter Davis Trio, I think it was called 'Nighthawk' and it was the phattest. They were playing their asses off. It was great, it sort of fits under the heading of be-bop, but kind of not really. It's definitely jazz but with its own thing. I wished he'd become famous, that would've been great, but I think he was really doing his own thing. But he was a professional sideman for which I don't think he ever got many accolades. I think he'd be very honored to know that he'd popped up in the encyclopedia now.

AAJ: Well, he certainly deserves it.

AD: He was one of the last of those, that crew, before it all passed away. It was kind of almost the end of an era, so I'm glad at least they did an album. Thanks for saying that. I wish that more people knew of him. I still do shows and people go, "you're Miles" daughter, right? (laughs). And I go, "no, it's Walter Davis". But, hey, it's cool (laughs).

AAJ: So what's happened since Blame It on Me came out. It must've turned your whole life around to say the least. And then the amount of time it took between the first and second records, too.

AD: (laughs). Well, that was not what I wanted to do. We arm wrestled a lot. I would turn in songs and I just went from song to song to song and It was almost like I just never gave them (the label) the one that that they wanted. And it got really tiring. I guess they always came back with the phrase: "It's great, but it's not commercial". So I said, "you said 'its great' so I think I did my job". They hired me to write good songs and hired musician's to take a journey and I thought that artist development was part of it (laughs) but, silly me, right? It was insane, but I had never sought out a deal, I was just green when I got in there. It just became a learning process, big time. That's kind of what I look at that whole period as. I'm glad that I have music out there but I kind of feel like my life Is now, beginning again (laughs), because finally I understand part of it. I feel like I'm truly part of it. So yeah, it's frustrating that it took so long but maybe that's what it was supposed to be. I can't really go and change any of that, right?

AAJ: No, absolutely not, except just learn from it.

AD: Exactly, and I think I did. I think I was the beneficiary of a lot of really great promotion that they did for me, as a pop musician. The joke is that pop is not really what I listen to but I keep waiting for the day for pop to be really great music again. I just like stuff that's good.

AAJ: I mean there certainly is good pop music, great pop music.

AD: Yeah! There used to be. I think there was a time when pop music used to be like the thing. It wasn't pop first then became great. Its like, how did It become a style? It's bizarre. I don't know how it happened.

AAJ: Exactly, I know. There was a time when jazz was pop music.

AD: Right. I know. It's funny, when anything becomes pop or becomes that dialect it loses what was so great about it in the first place and why it got popular.



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