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Meet Davis Wilson

Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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Kenny believed in low prices so I collected the modest covers and managed the crowds, which were double packed for Happy Apple [Dave King, Michael Lewis, and Eric Fratzke] gigs. I got to introduce the talent and, on rare occasions, I would perform some of Lord Buckley's routines. What fun! Lew Tabackin once told the crowd I was the "Peewee Marquette of the Midwest." I made a zillion friends, met so many fine musicians, such as yourself and I treasure the whole experience.

Do you have a favorite jazz anecdote?
Several! While I was at FSU, one night, Ricky Powell, a high school friend I had mistakenly labeled as square, told me there was a little jam in the lobby: two cats from Florida A & M were coming over. Forty years later he asked me: "You know who those guys were?" "No." "Julian Adderley and Nat Adderley." They were college kids!

In Honolulu, I found Martin Denny's Exotica band alternating nights with a Juilliard-trained pianist named Rene Paulo. One night, a shipmate and I found a little joint called The Clouds. In a small club was a trio backing a striking singer. She was over six feet tall, wearing a sarong, and barefoot. She said Watusi blood accounted for her height. She sang mostly calypso and a few covers. She was so interesting. I bought her drinks and talked to her every break, all night. Her name was Maya Angelou. Later, I found her album, Miss Calypso. Still the best version of "Calypso Blues" I've heard.

How do you discover new artists?
Radio first of all, then word-of-mouth.

Vinyl, CDs, MP3s, streaming?
CDs and streaming. At one point, I had a fair record collection: Early Charles Mingus, my beloved Clifford Brown and, among others, an EP of Charlie Parker with strings ("[Serge] Kousseviztsky's cats" as he called them). The whole liner was in Japanese. I loaned my collection to Pat Chamburs, a well-known local DJ, for his Friday night jazz show. He skipped to New York with Mary Hall. She changed her name to Lauren Hutton and became a model. Pat hooked up with the George Ohsawa [Macrobiotic] Foundation. I never got my records back.

If you were a professional musician, which instrument would you play and why?
Piano. I studied classical for a few years. If I had the chops, it's all I would do. Another life perhaps.

What's your desert island disc?
One? Impossible. Don't even get me started.

What do you think keeps jazz alive and thriving?
The kids. I know so many who persist, find gigs, play all the time. It's amazing. Most are good, too. It gives me hope.

Is there anything else we should know about you?
I'm a professional Santa. I'm a Super-Ager. Poetry is my real metier. I have a prodigious memory for music and lyrics. I have COPD, dysphagia, and a vestibular disturbance. Otherwise, as Sondheim wrote, I'm still here.

Finish this sentence: Life without music would be...
Unthinkable.

Photo credit: Andrea Canter

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