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Jesse Davis

Alto saxophonist Jesse Davis is one of the new, young lions of jazz coming out of New Orleans, where he was born 1965. He follows in the tradition of the Marsalis family and other Jazz musicians from the Crescent City currently attracting so much attention. Not surprisingly, he studied with Ellis Marsalis at the New Orleans Centre for Creative Arts.

Jesse showed signs of musical talent at an early age: when he was eleven, his brother Roger (an accomplished tuba player) bought Jesse a saxophone and taught him how to play it. He went on to study with Ellis Marsalis, whose teachings inspired him to become a music student at North-Eastern Illinois University on a full scholarship.

Eventually, he transferred to William Patterson College in New Jersey and then to the New School in New York City, enrolling in their Jazz and Contemporary Music Program. There he was a student of noted Jazz historian Ira Gitler, who says that "...Jesse stood out in the crowd". Through his college years, Davis won awards as outstanding soloist at Jazz Festivals, including Notre Dame, Wichita State, New York University, Southern University and Loyola. In 1989 he won the prestigious "Most Outstanding Musician" award at the Down Beat Music Fest in Philadelphia.

As a sideman, Jesse has gained experience with Jack McDuff, Major Holley, Cecil Payne, Illinois Jacquet, Jay McShann, Chico Hamilton, Junior Mance, Kenny Barron, Tete Montoliu, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson, Tana Reid, the Newport All Stars, Roy Hargrove, The Malboro Super- band and a long list of top jazz artists.

In 1993 Jesse toured Europe fronting his own quartet. In his more than 50 European appearances Jesse has recieved the best of reviews from the critics in Spain, France, Italy and the UK. Other European tours followed in 1994 and 1995. In July of 1996 Jesse toured Europe once again with Phil Woods, Charles McPherson and Gary Bartz, as part of the Sax Machine package.

Between 1994 and 1997, Jesse enjoyed a fruitful musical co-operation with his "homeboy" Nicholas Payton: Verve Records' release "Gumbo nouveau" (1996) features the classic tunes of New Orleans Jazz of the twenties and thirties seen from the scope of a modern Jazzman. 1996 also saw Jesse's debut as an actor in the celebrated Robert Altman movie "Kansas City".

An exclusive Concord Artist, his albums "Horn of passion" (1991), "As we speak" (1992), "Young at Art" (1993), "High standards" (1994) and "From Within" (1996), “First Insight” (1998) and “Second Nature” (2000) and are currently available. Jesse has also recorded with Ray Brown, and “Burning at the Woodhouse” (1997) with Milt Jackson for Qwest. He had a fine outing in 2003 on the Alltribe label with “The Setup.”

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Album Review

Jesse Davis: Live at Smalls Jazz Club

Read "Live at Smalls Jazz Club" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Alto saxophone master Sonny Stitt always chafed when he was called “little Bird," a reference to the greatest alto of them all, Charlie Parker. “I'm not a little Bird," he would say, “I'm me; Sonny Stitt." In similar fashion, Jesse Davis would probably shrug off any comparison to another of the instrument's esteemed patriarchs, the late Julian “Cannonball" Adderley. Even so, such a connection is hardly misplaced. To some ears, Davis is the nearest thing to Cannonball since...well, Cannonball himself. ...

Album Review

Charles Tolliver: Connect

Read "Connect" reviewed by Chris May

Put out more flags. Connect, the first release from trumpeter Charles Tolliver in over a decade, is a monster. From the Saturday-night goodtime opener “Blue Soul" through to the intense, Spanish tinged, serpentine closer “Suspicion," the album finds Tolliver still at the top of his game in a recording career which began in the mid 1960s. He fronts a US quintet which brings with it the grit and groove of a mid-1960s Blue Note hard-bop band while sounding totally 2020. ...

In Pictures

Jesse Davis Quartet at Tracce di Jazz Festival 2020

Read "Jesse Davis Quartet at Tracce di Jazz Festival 2020" reviewed by Danilo Codazzi

Photos from the Jesse Davis Quartet's “Tribute to Charlie Parker" concert held at the Comunale Theater in Casalmaggiore, Italy, on February 7th. ...

Album Review

Jesse Davis: The Setup

Read "The Setup" reviewed by Russ Musto

This is the real thing: an authentic, unpretentious set of bebop, ballads and blues played with the profound feeling and burning intensity that many artists strive for but few achieve. Saxophonist Jesse Davis was a featured player in Robert Altman's Kansas City and on this date he seems to be on a mission to revitalize jazz with the energy and excitement of a “real" jazz club, as depicted in that film. The group, featuring Davis' frequent collaborator Peter Bernstein on ...

Album Review

Jesse Davis: The Setup

Read "The Setup" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Jesse Davis is a meat and potatoes alto saxophonist. He sounds like the living extension of that part of Julian Adderley and Sonny Stitt which was unaffected by Charlie Parker. He has a beautifully virile, muscular tone brimming with confidence. On The Setup, Davis chooses a guitar trio for his rhythm section, lead by plectrist Peter Bernstein perfectly balancing Davis’s brawn with grace and intelligence.

Davis’s choice of repertoire for this recital is tasteful and smart. From the standards bin, ...

Album Review

Jesse Davis: Second Nature

Read "Second Nature" reviewed by Jim Santella

In Robert Altman’s 1996 film Kansas City, Jesse Davis is a member of the band at a fictional Hey Hey Club where Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins battle it out for satisfaction. In the subsequent video and tour, he’s paired with fellow alto saxophonist David “Fathead" Newman, playing mostly post-bop passages and adding excitement to the jam, which still employs a 1934-ish jazz scene. Born in New Orleans and starting his professional career with Illinois Jacquet’s big band, the 34-year-old ...

Album Review

Jesse Davis: First Insight

Read "First Insight" reviewed by Jack Bowers

Jesse Davis, one of the country's finest post-Cannonball boppers, plays with splendid precision on First Insight, all of whose nine compositions he wrote - but I can remember his having played with more intensity on other occasions (High Standards, for example, or From Within). While there is warmth peeking through here from time to time, the session seldom catches fire. One problem lies with the rhythm section, especially Miller's forceful piano, which is too conspicuously front-and-center (Carter's bass, which is ...

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Tim Boniface



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Live at Smalls Jazz...

Cellar Records



Gearbox Records


The Setup



Second Nature

Concord Music Group


First Insight

Concord Music Group


Just Jesse

C3R Records




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