13

Walter Davis Jr.: Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
Davis is one of those 1950s stories of the creative guy with chops who was simply lost amid a sea of similar musicians. It's a pity.
Every now and then, I hear a musician in a band and I think, "Damn, can we get rid of the other guys and just hear this one by himself?" That was my immediate thought after listening to Davis Cup, a hard bop cooker from 1959.

Walter Davis Jr. is a pianist with a slim discography. He recorded exactly one Blue Note CD as a leader—this one, his debut—and appeared mostly as a sideman on other people's records. The mystery is why he didn't achieve more with his considerable talents.

On Davis Cup, he sounds an awful lot like Thelonious Monk. No surprise there, since Monk was making some remarkable, groundbreaking stuff in the late 1950s. Lots of pianists wanted to be Monk in 1959, and it's no slam on Davis that he clearly shows the influences.

Here we have Davis on piano surrounded by a pretty routine Blue Note bunch: trumpeter Donald Byrd, saxman Jackie McLean, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor. It's a typical Blue Note affair, with five bluesy bop romps and a sweet ballad that sounds hauntingly like Monk's "Reflections" or "Pannonica." While I love 1950s Blue Note hard bop, this one comes off as rather ordinary and predictable. What is not predictable is Davis himself. He wrote all six songs, and that by itself is intriguing. More tantalizing are his brief solos. I wish there were more. The horns are nice, and Byrd seems particularly inspired here, but it's the piano that makes me yearn for more.

My personal favorite is "Rhumba Nhumba," partly because of its punny title, but mainly because of its catchy tune. Honorable mention: "Minor Mind," a toe-tapper with nice piano work and soulful playing from the horns.

Davis played for a short time with the Jazz Messengers, in two separate stints, and recorded a few albums for obscure European labels. Based on this debut, I'd like to hear them. Unfortunately, Davis seems to be one of those 1950s stories of the creative guy with chops who was simply lost amid a sea of similar musicians. A pity.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Easy to get

Cost: Weirdly expensive new on Amazon —$21—but $7 used and just $5.34 for the MP3 files

Post a comment

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.