Take Five With Mike Davis

Mike Davis By
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Meet Mike Davis:

Mike Davis has lived several distinct musical lives. He has been a student, a serious student of performance and of theory and of composition and of art. He has been a gig warrior, playing multiple shows in multiple styles on different instruments at different venues with different bands on the same day numerous days per week, week after week after week. He has been a record producer, sitting in front of a computer and a rack of mic pre's and compressors recording, editing, mixing, and picking on artists until he finally feels they got it. He has been a recording artist, obsessing over whether the material is right, whether the concept is strong, and whether the ensemble gets it. He has been a record label owner, pondering how best to market a project and to whom, begging for reviews and hoping they don't stink, dealing with logistics that are a world away from the music they serve. He has been a bandleader, a sideman, an extrovert, and a recluse. What follows is a brief history of those lives, some of which are still being lived.

Over the years Mike has been fortunate to perform and record with many musical greats including Airto Moreira, Norah Jones, Steve Gadd, Ed Thigpen, Doc Watson, Bobby Womack, Ellen Greene, Peter Erskine and Poncho Sanchez to name a few. He was a regular member of the bands Little Jack Melody and His Young Turks and The Pasties. He studied music at the renowned University of North Texas. He has performed all across the US and all over the world.


Acoustic bass and electric bass.

Teachers and/or influences?

Classical teachers: Ed Rainbow and Jeff Bradetich;

Jazz teachers: John Adams, Eric Late, David Foster.

Main influences on bass are Palle Danielsson, Charlie Haden, Marc Johnson, Arild Andersen, and Gary Peacock.

Primary influences as jazz composers/bandleaders include Keith Jarrett, Jimmy Giuffre, Paul Bley, and Ralph Towner.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I knew I wanted to be a musician immediately upon touching the bass for the first time. I had been an avid record collector as a child, interested in many different styles of music. A friend in high school played bass and I borrowed his sometime around 1986. Immediate reaction! I began taking lessons from David Foster (currently the bassist for Airmen of Note) and he really helped guide me to my first great jazz records. Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, by Chick Corea, was the first jazz record that made me need to play. It blew my mind. I knew I was a musician immediately. It felt right and I've never looked back.

Your sound and approach to music:

For me, music has to evoke a feeling or an image. I have long loved jazz but I have long loathed musical athleticism to no expressive end. Whether playing standards, improvising freely, or interpreting new original material, I believe a mature jazz musician/ensemble uses technique to serve the concept and the vibe- not to show off. When writing I think exactly the same way. I seek to tell a story rather than to create a vehicle on which to blow. The blowing should serve the song and its story in my opinion, not the other way around.

Your dream band:

To be honest, I have recorded with my dream band. I can't think of people better on their instruments and more giving as improvisers and ensemble players than saxophonist Jacob Duncan, guitarists Tim Miller and Niclas Haglind, along with drummers Norm Bergeron and Jason Tiemann. That said, I have always dreamed of playing with Keith Jarrett. Also, I'd love to work with Dave Douglas, Ralph Towner, Bobo Stenson and Jon Christensen.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

In the summer of 1991, just one month shy of my 19th birthday I was playing with a big band at the Montreux Jazz Festival. It was my first time out of the country, I was young, excited, and ready for adventure. The evening before we were to return to the states, I went skinny dipping in Lake Leman with a few of the guys from the band and some girls we met. Like the 18 year-old numbskull I was, I left my passport in the pocket of my shorts on the beach. Naturally, it was stolen! The next day, I sent my bass with the band to the airport while I worked like a maniac in Geneva filing police reports, visiting the consulate to tell my tale, and having new passport photo taken. I got it done and made it to the airport with only moments to spare. Lessons learned: 1. It would be nice to know at least a little French when in Geneva; and 2. Don't go skinny dipping if you have your passport with you...just don't.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

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