Nathan Davis: Back From Here

Russ Musto By

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AAJ: Were those the only gigs you've done in New York since returning from Paris?

ND: I haven't worked that much here. I did a gig with Slide Hampton at Saratoga when I first came back. Slide was in Paris during the time I was there; that's how he got in the Paris Reunion Band, and he got me on that all-star Mingus All-Star Big Band and we did a thing up in Saratoga. Then Slide and I did a couple of quintet gigs at Battery Park and recorded in some studios. And then I played there once again with the Paris Reunion Band one night at Town Hall; that was funny because it was still the Paris Reunion Band and we did one hit in New York. At the time I was in Europe and I had to come all the way back and play it and then go all the way back (laughs). But regular work in New York, no.

AAJ: Do you have a regular working band in Pittsburgh?

ND: Yeah, I just recorded a new CD (The Other Side Of Morning - Dedicated to Eric Dolphy)with this band. Mike Taylor is on bass. Actually, Dwayne Dolphin, is also on bass. I used two bass players. James Johnson on piano and Craig Davis on piano, Greg Humphries is on drums. He's related to Roger Humphries. Roger's his uncle. He plays his ass off. And David Baker is on cello. He's on it as a guest. It's out now. I'm handling it myself with my company, Tomorrow International.

AAJ: How is it that you came to be included on the program for this James Moody tribute at the Blue Note?

ND: Moody and I, number one, are very good friends and we have been playing together, actually, all over the place. A number of times I've had him down here at the University of Pittsburgh. We've known each other since Paris. I think I met him in '64, '65, or something like that. So we've been friends. For the past five years I have put together a program down at Florida Memorial College for a friend of mine, All Smith, so in addition to here, at the University of Pittsburgh, he's been on Florida with me. And Grover Washington, Jr. In fact, we used to call ourselves the Three Tenors.

I think the last tribute they had for Moody in New York at Lincoln Center, I think it was April of 2000. I was on tour with the Paris Reunion Band and he had asked me to do it then but I couldn't do it because we were doing a tour. So this time he had Ina Ditke, his manager, call me. Ironically, I'm actually at the Kennedy Center for the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program during this time. It's like a residency program. So I'm there from the 23rd through April 1, and I arranged to get off and so I could fly up to New York and do that on the 25th. Ina thought it was a good idea because Grover and Moody and I, like I said, had been playing around, as the Three Tenors and they wanted to do a salute to Grover, so she called and that's how they got it together.

You know, I want to say something else about Moody, though, man. I did some analysis of transcriptions of Moody's solos. My wife's writing a book. They are going to have a book signing at the Blue Note during this time. This cat! I mean I know him, he's my friend, but, boy that's one bad-assed dude there. (laughs) Boy, this cat is super, super, super bad, man. And some of his shit is so fast man. On alto I definitely put him in the same class as Stitt and Bird. He is killing.

And still, Moody calls now, he's going to be 80, right? And he says, "Nathan, check this out. Try this." And he'll play on the phone. Sometimes I get the students to come. He'll call up here at school and I'll pick up the phone and we listen in on this shit. And he'll be playing shit, "Practice this. Now do this. Do this." And I'll say, "Okay, man." (laughs) and that's beautiful because this cat he could lay back and say "Well, I've done it."

AAJ: When he hits the bandstand, it's still holy ground.

ND: Yeah, he's still there, man and he's active as hell. I love him to death. That's my man.

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