Charles Davis: In the Air
AAJ: Well, maybe this is the time to dispel another myth. The belief is that a lot of people who played with Sun Ra tend to have their own solo careers circumscribed in a way. And you apparently are the exception to that.
CD: A lot of the guys, the reason it was that way was because Sun Ra took care of them. He paid me; he didn't take care of me. They lived in the house; some of them still live in the house. I never lived in the house.
AAJ: Was this in Philly?
CD: Well, it started here in New York. It was down on Sixth Street [or] Fourth Street, next to the Hell's Angels. The Hell's Angels were next door and he got along with them famously. It started there and then [Arkestra band member] Marshall Allen's father gave him a house in Philly. It's called Ra House and that's where they've been ever since.
AAJ: You've played on countless records but you've only played on a handful as a leader. Is that by choice or opportunity?
CD: It's not my choice. That's the way the cards are dealt right now.
AAJ: You mean that's the way the industry is?
CD: As far as I know that's the way the industry is. I have a CD just released: Our Man in Copenhagen: The Music of Bent Jaedig (Fresh Sound, 2008). He's a national hero of Denmark.
AAJ: How did you undertake that project?
CD: Well, I was asked. That's the easiest way to get me to do something. Kresten Osgood, the Danish drummer, asked me to make a CD with him. I made that, then all of a sudden I did the tour with him in Denmark. I'm going to do something in September over in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy playing the music of Kenny Dorham. And we're gonna record that.
AAJ: Well that's great. But it's troubling that someone with your track record...
CD: Look, I've been trying to knock on doors and do this and do that, so after awhile you leave 'em alone. If they don't want to deal with you, leave 'em alone. In the earlier days I would try to get record dates and people would tell me, "Well, Gerry Mulligan is not selling this much." I look up and Gerry Mulligan's got another record date. Maybe one day I'll get lucky enough to find an agent to expedite matters.
Charles Davis, Land Of Dreams (Smalls, 2006)
Abdullah Ibrahim, Water From An Ancient Well (Black Hawk/Enja, 1985)
Cedar Walton/Hank Mobley, Breakthrough! (Cobblestone-Muse, 1972)
Jimmy Garrison/Elvin Jones Sextet, Illumination! (feat. McCoy Tyner) (Impulse, 1963)
Steve Lacy, The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy (Candid, 1960)
Sun Ra, Visits Planet Earth/Interstellar Low Ways (featuring John Gilmore, Pat Patrick, Charles Davis) (Saturn/Evidence, 1956-60)
Courtesy of Smalls Records