Take Five With Billie Davies
Drummer and band leader Billie Davies is mostly an autodidact whose natural talent, relentless, explorative spirit, and multifaceted experiences have led to an innovative approach to jazz. With a background in classical and jazz along with a lifetime of musical experiences in jams, performances, recordings, and music production, the listener is treated to jazz inclinations within her ensembles that bristle with cutting-edge freshness.
Teachers and/or influences?
Some of my deepest rooted influences stem from classical, jazz, gypsy, manouche, free jazz and avant-garde jazz. As a player I feel that Al Foster, Billy Higgins, Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Ed Thigpen, and Peter Erskine have been my biggest influences. But when the music is specifically concerned then I have to say that Ornette Coleman, '70s and '80s Miles Davis, music produced under the ECM label in the '70s and '80s with artists like Keith Jarrett, Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim, Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Jack DeJohnette and Carla Bley, as well as Nina Simone, have most definitely influenced my music.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I have had a love relationship with rhythm and drums ever since my maternal grandfather, Maurice Clybouw, introduced me to the drums when I was about three years old. I never knew or realized I wanted to be a musician, I just naturally turned into one.
Your sound and approach to music:
All of my music is improvisational. It is a conversation between musicians and musical instruments. A joint emotional expression inspired by a certain common feeling, thought, or perspective that is being communicated to an audience, a listener, and a community. Except for a few standards on my album All about Love, all of my music are original compositions.
What Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Billy Higgins accomplished in The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959) was not in vain. I heard it loud and clear. Their roots are my roots, answering, calling, and continuing the mission of fine art in jazz. Liberating the notes to be free and the sounds to be reinvented and re-explored so that others will hear, see, and feel the roots. So that others may identify with it as I did. So that this extremely free, heart beating, soul searching, mind bending, and highly intuitive form of fine art through the medium of music can be still here after I am gone.
Your teaching approach:
Follow your heart.
Your dream band:
With each and every new iteration of The Billie Davies Band I get closer and closer to my dream band.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
The worst ever was not being able to play at a booked gig in Rotterdam due to a musician's union picketing crew that prevented the establishment from opening their doors and us from setting up because we were a non-union band.
The best ever was Montpellier and Toulouse in the South of France are part of my best memories so far. In Toulouse for example, we had no rehearsal space and started rehearsing and practicing outside in the parking lot next to our bus. The second day, the French police showed up in one of their little white van and thought we were doing something wrong. I went up and asked whether there was a problem and the policeman on the wheel said, "No, no, not at all, we were just wondering whether it would be ok to sit here and listen to you guys." After I answered that they were more than welcome to do so, the doors swung open and about five or six of them sat there and listened to us practiced. This became a habit for them for as long as we were there.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. For me, it represented an ultimate freedom of expression in jazz.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
I do not remember. Jazz has been around me in my life and my ears since I was very little.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Continuing the mission of fine art in jazz. Liberating the notes to be free and giving the opportunity for sounds to be reinvented, re-explored, and intuitively expressed.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
I would not know where to start. I am not a jazz teacher or critic, I am a jazz musician. I am the one playing jazz and I leave it up to others to critique it and to describe the state it is in.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Keep playing it true to jazz traditions! Learn from its past and history. Learn to appreciate what was and what is. Do not turn it into academia as has been the fate of classical music.
What is in the near future?