Charles Davis is one of those musicians who has capably plied his craft for over 50 years, working alongside disparate characters like Sun Ra and Thad Jones while garnering little or no commercial recognition for his meager but excellent output as a leader. On Blue Gardenia everything about Charles Davis and his playing smacks of hard bop from the '50s and '60s. What kind of sound does he have? Imagine if Dexter Gordon had played baritone saxophone rather than tenor. That is what Charles Davis sounds like. Now, also imagine if Harry Carney played tenor rather than baritone and that is also what Charles Davis sounds like. It is this special dichotomy that best describes this veteran's formidable tone and considerable talent.
"Beautiful Friendship" and "Texas Moon" demonstrate the huge universe of Mr. Davis' tone. At 70, he blows with more conviction and experience than most horn players half his age. Davis finds an empathic soulmate in the exquisite pianist Cedar Walton, who blends well with the leader's muscular sound. Bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth round out the superb rhythm section backing the saxophonist. Straight-ahead saxophone jazz rarely gets better than this.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.