Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Show #269: Richard Davis

October 6th, 2014

rdavis Show #269: Richard Davis
(Photo found at Isthmus.)

Richard Davis is something of a legend here in Madison. He’s been teaching at the University of Wisconsin since 1977 and is very active in the social justice movement here. Prior to moving to Madison, however, he had established himself as one of the best bass players on the planet.

He was born in Chicago where he learned the double bass in high school. Upon graduation he attended Vandercook College as well as studying under the tutelage of Rudolf Fahsbender of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Davis moved to New York in 1954 where he stayed until he became a Cheesehead. Now, I knew about his work with jazz legends like Eric Dolphy, Sarah Vaughn, and Miles Davis but was unaware that he played under conductors such as Igor Stravinsky, Pierre Boulez, and Leonard Bernstein until about 10 minutes ago. Davis also played on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. To top things off, he was named a Jazz Master last year by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Davis does a lot of work offstage and outside of his classroom. He founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists in 1993 which matches kids with experienced bass players; Davis also founded Retention Action Project, a group which promotes dialogues that, in turn, promote multiculturalism at the University. He also started a Madison chapter of the Institutes for the Healing of Racism, Inc.

Davis was profiled this past summer in Madison’s alternative weekly Isthmus and he is still going strong at age 84. He continues to teach, perform, and work towards racial equality.

The show at hand features the Richard Davis Quintet and was recorded on 27 April 1996 at Craig Auditorium in Janesville, Wisconsin. The Quintet at this time was:

Ricky Ford – tenor saxophone
Cecil Bridgewater – trumpet
Sir Roland Hanna – piano
Richard Davis – bass
Wilbur Campbell – drums

I’ve read that the group was based out of New York although Campbell and Bridgewater lived in the Chicago area, I believe.


St. Louis Blues
In A Sentimental Mood
Recorda Me
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So What
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Blues March

It’s a nice audience recording but the levels are a bit low so crank it up.

Download show

Richard Davis

The description of this video is that it’s “from Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights in Jazz Tribute to Charlie Parker” in 1972 and features Davis along with Ted Dunbar on guitar.

Related posts:

  1. Show #139: Guy Davis
  2. Show #163: Before the Birth of Cool (Miles Davis)
  3. Richard Thompson’s Electric Out Now
  4. Show #84: Running Down the Voodoo
  5. Show #62: Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers

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