Jackie Davis Interview

Jackie Davis " le Tigre de l’Hammond "
(1920 – 1999)


by Dominique Perichon

Reprinted with permission of Dominique Perichon, this article is originally in French and is translated using the Systran Babel Fish translation software.



"I was likely to take my most important lessons of Jackie Davis. It helped me much when I began. It resided in Baltimore for one month and spent at least twenty days to the house to educate me. You have only to listen to a disc of Jackie Davis. That swings perhaps not as much as Jimmy Smith, but it is really of the organ, because Jackie plays three things at the same time. One hears distinctly the pedal, the left hand which reaches agreements, the right hand which traces a melody line, and the three sounds intermingle... Rather than Jimmy Smith, I would have preferred that it is Jackie Davis which shows the way to be followed to the young organists. One would not have seen any pianist jumping on an organ and trying to play about it. If you have some money to spend, buy you a good disc of Jackie Davis to know how the instrument must sound ". Lou Bennett (organist).


1 - Does Jackie Davis exist?

A handle of rare discs and out of price would tend to prove the existence of Jackie Davis, organist of Jazz, interprets inspired of standards inspiring, colourist of Hammond and high-speed motorboat in its country in the absence of being prophet in ours. Last nine discs crossed the Atlantic in the Fifties and Sixties without never leaving in their wake sufficiently movement so that the name of Jackie Davis joins those of the kings of the organ... They are not legion to have however tackled the whirring animal, even fewer to have tamed it. Of course, Jackie Davis exists, there is even quite alive... But, the tiger of Hammond - title of the one of its discs remained in the margin all these years during. This shade, one knows, is relative to it: not to appear in the anthologies never prevented anybody from existing, even less food in happiness its music and its career. Jackie Davis was not obstructed! It awaited only one it chronic, that one it biographer and dissects it with blows of critical scalpel to bring his velvet leg in a steel tact to the organ and the Jazz...


2 - Jacksonville, Florida.

The climate of Florida is not satisfied to make push citrus fruits and to heat fortunate arthritis, it gives rise to also the organists. However, it had not been ninety years that Jacksonville had been founded that very quite fore-mentioned Jackson "Jackie" Davis is born in 1920 there, December 13. "I think that my talents have a genetic origin" said it. Did his/her grandmother and her mother bequeath a heritage of musical chromosomes to their small Jackie? Always is it that the first played of the piano and the second of the washtub, of the contrebassine if you prefer and, one knows the role of the mother in the education of the male children: Jackie would be a musician, exceeding the rudimentary and maternal model until adopting the most complex instrument that the jazzmen practised.


3 - An early child.

Jackie did not await puberty for émanciper since, at the eleven years age, it buys its own piano! 45 Dollars! gained thanks to his talent of musician "One knew me in Jacksonville under the name of" Little Jackie ". I played in the surroundings since the age of eight or nine years and, my tenth year, I entered my first orchestra, a training of nineteen musicians! Its eighteen fellow-members serve godfathers to him and Jackie Davis will never thank them enough: "One of the best things which arrived to me! I learned: I learned the life and the keyboard... "But for Jackie Davis, between the life and the keyboard, few differences... The orchestra plays for the dance, one night by-Ci, one night by-there. Saturdays evening, it accompanies the balls by charity of the Lions Club; Friday, it occurs in a black dance hall where the piano was so bad that the saxophonists could not make hold their nozzle on the bottle of their instrument so much they were to insert it little to agree. But the obstacle forms: Jackie thus learns how to play in the various tonalities, most subtle, to compensate for the distress of its piano.


4 - Studies for organ and piano.

A purse out of pocket, Jackie Davis pushes the doors of the local college. It works hard and, while following a serious musical education under the crook of a professor, it benefits from large the organ of the institution to throw its first agreements "the organ was so immense that I was afraid which it falls on me! Moreover, there was a time between the moment when one inserted a key and the moment when one heard the sound later... "A few years, in 1943, Jackie closes again behind him the doors of the college and bug its diploma Art and Music above its bed... Question music, it holds the exclusiveness in its inclinations to the Jazz: "the Jazz was my first and only love."


5 - First Masters.

At the time of the evenings where youthful Jackie faced a désaccordé piano, it happened that Earl Hines passed by there and offered lessons "Earl Hines to him played in crowned tonalities! F sharp, natural, Semi D natural: it adored! "But the idol of youth remains for him Art Tatum. The pianist with the 88 fingers marks Jackie by his musical imagination and his speed of execution: "Tatum is my god, for all! If it could do all that on a piano, I imagine what it could have done with the organ! "Besides, the tatumesque blaze arises very appreciably in the style of Jackie: the energy and speed with the service of the swing. Obvious? Still is necessary it to have of it average the techniques and the sensitivity necessary... Then, and even if it never clearly acknowledged it, the play of piano of Jackie Davis and its vocal, when it takes to him to sing, have unambiguous perfumes of Nat King Cole (which it will accompany). Besides it admits carrying a great admiration to another follower of the two Masters Cole and Tatum: Peterson Oscar.


6 - Davis of spiritual son father.

Wild Bill Davis, of race. Who could have played of the Hammond organ as from the Fifties and have passed in addition to the influence of Wild Bill? Who could have avoided the packing engine of the man in Leslie, that one even which transformed the instrument cosy into mill with swing? At Wild Bill Davis, Jackie draws her style and a certain design of the music: "I adored Wild Bill Davis and I owe him much. My ideas come from him: it is has broad designer! I liked what it did with the pedals of the organ... " Following Wild Bill, Jackie develops the side "orchestrates" Hammond organ and research this sound, full and bulky like a dance hall of Harlem in the Thirties. Music first of all but Jackie Davis wants to also adopt the joy that its Master adds to the notes: "What I liked at Wild Bill, it was the entertainer, the showman! I wanted, like him, to play of the topics seldom interpreted... "Jackie, since the time of the college of Jacksonville, is interested in the organ. The arrival of Wild Bill Davis on the East coast, Atlantic City, about 1950, will make it possible to the two men to meet. Jackie makes the voyage to listen to it, speaks to him and both become sincere friends... Years later, Wild Bill will evoke its homonymous fan, in a laconic and final way: "Jackie? Very large! "the admired admirer.


7 - Organistics.

Taking into account its early beginnings, Jackie Davis has, at the beginnings of the Fifties, a solid experiment behind him. In 51, it sand-gravel mix two titles for one 45 turns at Victor and, the following year, it records an album for the Trend company that Kapp Records will begin again under the Organistics title. A guitar, a battery, an organ and standards as if it swinguait some. The first title, Oh you crazy moon, reveals obviously the influence of Wild Bill Davis, but Jackie gives a pulsation very particular to this topic, pulsation which is clean for him. While schematizing, if the two organists have an orchestral design of the instrument, Wild Bill evokes the orchestra of Basie and Jackie that of Lunceford and its leaping precision (I dream of you is besides with the program). Passer by from one register to another, Jackie Davis reinforces this side by evoking the various sections of a big band. Organ in Wild Bill and body in King Cole. Jackie sings well, but it is not unforgettable.


8 - The Jordan Period.

1952, the decisive year for Jackie Davis. Did Organistics carry to the tympanums of Louis Jordan? Always it is that the saxophonist singer decides to present a trio with Hammond organ inside his orchestra. The idea was perhaps puffed up to him by the fashion which the instrument caused then, but it will have the merit to bring Jackie under the projectors more. Downbeat of July 2, 1952, in connection with the service of Jordan to Apollo, specified: "the spectacle also presented a good imitation of Bill Davis Trio, led by Jackie (no family tie) Davis" Louis Jordan will integrate then Jackie in a regular way in the orchestra. This last is thus behind the keyboards of the altist, with for mission "of bringing freshness and revival of vitality", to take again the expression of John Chilton in his book on Louis Jordan (Let the good time roll, ED. Michigan, 1997). Freshness and vitality, Wild Bill Davis of it was already charged into 50 when Jordan had recalled it for specific recordings to the organ (according to the declarations of Wild Bill, the steppings discographics and the listening of the discs, it is probably the latter which one hears, for example, on Tambouritza boogy and Lemonade, usually allotted to Bill Doggett...). Jackie Davis will be thus the second organist of the orchestra. In 1956 (or 1958), Jackie records with Louis Jordan. Guide, it punctuates the song and the viola leader with all the punch of his three keyboards (Got my mojo working), involving the rhythmic one; soloist (Sunday), it enters in big band the chorus and maintains fire that Jordan puts at the music... The great humility of Jackie seems to want to retain of this time only the value of Louis Jordan: "I admired Louis... I remained fourteen months with him, and each night I was at his sides. I know it by heart: Louis was fastidious on all and what you hear on his discs is exactly what he wanted to obtain! I followed it in this way... " It should not however be believed that Jackie Davis crossed the Fifties in the darkness of its organ. When it enters the orchestra of Louis Jordan, its name is not unknown any more. Witness this extract of an article of Brinkley Citizen (September 5, 1957), newspaper of Arkansas where Timpany Five had made vibrate pleasure the tympanums: "Jackie Davis, the star of the Capitol discs to the organ Hammond." Jackie, a star? A star in the Hammond firm...


9 - Capitol years.

At that time, Jackie Davis is not satisfied to support the merry viola of Louis Jordan, it is made a name as soloist. The Capitol discs take it under contract. During five years, from 1950 to 1955, it will record for the prestigious label a series of discs which will ensure its fame. Difficult to restore a chronology because there is not discography of Jackie and the small pockets mention only seldom the year of the recording (it is known only that Hi-Fi Hammond is the first of the series at Capitol)... It does not matter! Not only the swing squirts furrows at each second but it is also necessary to go to the obviousness music: Jackie Davis is a designer of the organ! Tiger one the Hammond is revealing on this subject. Jackie enters in crash on each topic of this disc (duet organ and battery), it plays in the sharp one of the subject as of the first note: Thou Swell, for example, sudden with the first measures the attack of the Tiger with great blows of agreements. This same title, like You C something to, reveals me what is undoubtedly the most original feature of the style of Jackie Davis: the choice of the registers. Several colors follow one another with the chorus and the atmosphere follows the movement, the fire alternating with soft fire... Leave to have a machine as rich in possibilities as Hammond, to make use of it as much! Still let us quote, among the talents of Jackie, the great facility and the humour with which it introduces a quotation into a topic (Should I) and, signs of largest, how it bones a standard and (it refreshes it is necessary to listen to the old story I' ve got the world one has string: "the pretty" melody, crushed by Leslie, arises transfigured by Jackie' S touch). At Capitol, Jackie Davis meets the ideal producer. Bill Miller indeed will accompany the career by the organist in a creative, respectful and friendly way. Miller is the man auprès whose echo the doubts and the extreme requirement of Jackie towards itself will find: "I was never completely satisfied with my discs because, each time I recorded something, I knew that I could have better done..." Bill Miller suggests, day before, but leaves completely free Jackie of its musical choices. It is Miller who launches the idea, in 1959, of a disc in company of a section of trombones! It joins together around Jackie nine trombones (more one bugle), entrusts arrangements to Gerald Wilson (which apparently knows already Jackie) and coats the whole with very beautiful rhythmic (Milt Holland with the battery, Irving Ashby with the guitar and Joe Comfort with the double bass)! The disc opens on frightening a rengaine, Yours in my heart alone, that the arrangement of Wilson and the chorus of Hammond make take off with happiness. Any Jackie the alchemist is there: give him most terrible of the standards, it transforms it into music, the maker of organ...


10 - Hammond Jackie.

It is so easy to fall into the old-fashioned one when one plays on a Hammond organ! One would rock quickly in environment music of elevator if one did not lend guard to it. For this reason all the musicians who succeed in drawing an interesting sound from this instrument deserve our attention. And Jackie, as regards sounds, is shown of a rare generosity, which the piano, of which it plays from time to time on its discs, does not allow him... Jackie Davis, one would say the Captain Nemo (still an unknown) balancing his agreements to the ocean floor, the fish quite as worthy to be its public as any badly enlightened amateur... When, in 1951, Jackie buys its first Hammond organ, it hardly spends time to tame it since it begins very quickly with the Harlem Club from Philadelphia and leaves only twenty-two weeks there later. The marriage successful between Jackie and Hammond offer a new notoriety to him on the night scene, of clubs in theatres. Certain organists exploit the climates of the registers for envoûter the listener (even to deaden it); others send to us K.O. of swing and power, Wild Bill for example; Jackie sails a little between this two water, it tears off us our armchairs and throws us on an imaginary track of dance... Thanks to the albums for Capitol, thanks to the success which they gained, Jackie Davis becomes ambassador and demonstrator of the Hammond organ. Its name divides the small pockets with that of the manufacturer of organ. What to dream moreover for one organist of Jazz?


11 - Rhythmic.

Jackie Davis never expressed the wish to play in big band or to count blowers in its orchestra "I had association with Duke or Basie, nor with no big band. I worked much in trio, with low and battery. It is what I wanted to do "Side guitars, Irving Ashby often lent its cords and Barney Kessel plays on one of the best discs of Jackie, Easy does it (with Earl Palmer and Joe Comfort). But these are the regular beaters which surprise, as little known as our organist, astonishing, clashing: Weedie Morris and Milt Holland. Morris and Holland have same qualities. Their play is never detached from the sovereign organ which does not support the approximation. Also they sweep the skins with the highhest degree of accuracy, strike the cymbals at the desired time... The recordings carried out with these two beaters illustrate two principles of the Jazz well: to play together, accompany the soloist. The impulse that Jackie, large rythmician, causes in its phrased, one finds it intact in the surrounding batteries of Weedie Morris and Milt Holland. The cooperation with Morris was close: "Weedie Morris was my preferred beater. It was my base, it was very for me. A large friend. One saw oneself much "And Morris guide does not owe anything to Morris soloist who punctuates of a dry striking and dancing What edge I say after I say I' m sorry in the album Big Beat Hammond... On the disc Hi-fi Hammond Jackie Davis, it is Ernest L (Conceited) Clark, the beater. It belongs to the same line as its two fellow-members, which would tend to show that Jackie, shouldered by Bill Miller, had decided control given to its music. A designer, I said to you... The rhythmic one does not have anything accessory for Jackie Davis when one knows the care which it takes to the choice of the tempos (concern shared with Basie). It does not regard the tempo as a more or less random speed, result of the mood of the moment, but as an ideal framework in which it throws the colors of its registers. All the topics which it recorded show it and its Saint Louis blues (of the album Easy does it) still does not return from there from his change of tempo, just after a languid intro...


12 - For the audience.

Jackie Davis is interested in his audience: "I like to play of the topics which are known by the greatest number..." Even apart from the music, it considers each one with attention: "I thank God for the education which I received and who allowed me to also consider each person" Its musical creed could be summarized as follows: to like public without inevitably flattering it in the direction of the ear. Of course, Jackie Davis in the exotic (Frenesi...), but which jazzman gave never compromised himself there? Of course, Jackie recorded a whole a little soft disc (Chasing shadows) which attracted certainly a number of customers ready to coil themselves in languorous body and not very concerned interlacing of the music. And then? The exercise attracted not badly organists (sometimes hard Midnight Slows of the Seventies for example)... All its life, Jackie Davis practised her art without variation; the music will have been its only trade. A point of organ, it is all!


13 - Jackie, Louie, Ella, Pablo and others.

Jackie knowing well the beater Louie Bellson, this last invited one day of 1978 Ella Fitzgerald to come to listen to it in a club. Ella, which had however sung with all that the Jazz counted prestigious musicians, was really astonished by qualities of Jackie. "I like to direct my own group, known as Jackie, but if somebody like Ella asks me, I do not hesitate! "But, it already accompanied by the vocalists: Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan (and even, at its beginnings, the roucoulor Billy Daniels)... It knows the music. Here how they found all three in June of this year in a Californian studio to record Lady Time... Granz supervises, Pablo markets. With the length of the eleven titles, Jackie wavers in the song of Ella, ensures not only the harmonies but also the rate/rhythm (Bellson is very discrete), on fast tempo as on slow tempo, its play of pedals distributing the low ones under the voice of Time Lady. There still, the colors of its organ distinguish Jackie from good of other organists and tint the songs, in solo or accompaniment, to give them to nine. Ella, which was intended to remove rust from the standards, could not find better accomplice on this ground... It is enough to listen to All gold nothing At all to realize it. The small pocket of the disc comprises a quotation in connection with Jackie Davis which is worth all the articles (especially when there is not) and all the possible praises. Count Basie, one of the largest organists of the Jazz, declared in connection with Jackie: "He' S has bitch! "Before throwing you on your Franco-English dictionaries, think of this linguistic characteristic specific to the American blacks consisting in saying the opposite of what one wishes to express... In fact, the compliment of Basie, is not mean.


14 - A tour in Europe.

An attractive silence reigns on certain episodes of the career of this organist. Jackie Davis came to Europe in 1969 to play in Switzerland, in Holland, in particular, to accompany Ben Webster, inter alia... In Spain Jackie played on March 11, 1969 in Barcelonne, at the request of the Institute of American studies Northern, at the time of a concert organized by Orgues Hammond. At the time of its passage to the Country - Low it would have recorded a disc. The existence of one 78 turns London (HL8006), where it plays Autumn in New York and They can' T Take away from me, would tend to prove that Jackie Davis also came to England. But it did not produce in Paris. That is enough sometimes not to exist with the eyes of a certain criticism.


15 - "To play, always play: optimist "

After its Capitol period, Jackie Davis never ceased playing and recording (for Warner in particular), anxious to touch a young public, even if the success gained with its discs grew blurred naturally with time. Twenty-six weeks per annum, during seven years, it settled behind its Hammond to make swinguer the hotel Hilton de Head Island, in South Carolina, sharing its days between music and golf. And to privilege the life is not always a good thing for the fame. But is this so important...? At the beginning of the Nineties, one listens to it in El Chapultepec Jazz Club of Denver. Environment of box, the smoke brewed by Leslie, indifference of the consumers and the fascination of some in circle around the organ, glass with the hand, in front of this musician of which they do not perhaps even know the name, of which they are unaware of certainly the importance and the place that it occupies in the Jazz... Important, Jackie play. "Optimist! "It is necessary to believe in the music when Andrew, the hurricane, comes to sweep its house of Miami. Jackie and his wife, Lil, lose all in one night "We did not have more anything. Following this event, I made a cardiac attack, followed of two operations, which left me blind man of the left eye temporarily... But we are always alive "Jackie and Lil rebuilt their life. With the sun. Jackie is far from all that, now, the organ Hammond at the end of the fingers, Florida under its window. Without bitterness, he is not concerned with all the literature around the Jazz which practically never did not quote it (quoted, simply). He will thus have escaped with these some upholstered lines that the specialists have habit to pack on order for the dictionaries and who cool the burning jazzmen: "Influenced by Thing, with the vibrato of Thingummy and the tact of Thing, this musician is an excellent musician. Amen "Such year amount of better. Jackie Davis, Jazz organist and to philosophize, concludes: "for me, That which lost until its memories, there remains to him still the life." And the Jazz, that's life.


Post scriptum and civilities:

Johnny Simmen was surely the first in Europe to be written on Jackie Davis in an article entitled "Organ great", published in number 18 of the review the Point of the Jazz (November 1982). He regretted there that Jackie is not more known amateurs and that nobody, still, did not consider the case of this artist. Without Johnny Simmen, without the ear and the discotheque of Jean-Marie Masse which has good taste to collect discs of Jackie, without Mark Vail, journalist with magazine Keyboard, which mentioned Jackie Davis in her book The Hammond Organ, Beauty in the B, and which guided me towards a specialist in the Jazz organ, finally without Pete Fallico, producer, radio operator organizer, without his intermediary for interviewing Jackie Davis, its friend, without his kindness and its desire to make known Jackie in Europe, I could not have written this article and, more serious, I would not have known Jackie Davis.


16 Discographie considérer du Dominique Périchon

- Deux titres sur 45 tours Victor (20/47-5111), 1951.
- The Jackie Davis Trio (Kapp Records KL-1030), 1952 (à l’origine, album Trend LP 1010)
- En Trio – 78 tours RCA Victor (20-4831)- Jackie Davis y chante Buzz my Baby et Goombay .
- Quatre titres sous le nom de Dinah Washington, avec Paul Quinichette, Keter Betts, Wynton Kelly et Jimmy Cobb (Mercury), 1952, Chicago
- Sept titres sous le nom de Dinah Washington, avec Paul Quinichette, Jimmy Cobb (Mercury), 1953, New York
- Deux titres, au moins, sous le nom de Dinah Washington (Mercury), 1953, New York
- The Jackie Davis quartet : Easy does it (Capitol T 1686), 1955, Los Angeles
- Jackie Davis at the Hammond : Chasing shadows (Capitol T 815), 1956/57, Los Angeles
- Jumpin’Jackie (Capitol 038-85586), 1957, Los Angeles
- Album pour Capitol avec Eddie Costa (vb), Mundell Lowe et Kenny Burrell (ST 1046), New York, 1958
- Jackie Davis meets the trombones (Capitol T 1180), 1959, Los Angeles
- Tiger on the Hammond , (Capitol ST 1419 ), 1960, paru aussi sous le titre
- Jackie Davis, Ambiance orgue Hammond ( Emidisc C 048 50 704) , Los Angeles
- Hi-Fi Hammond Jackie Davis (Capitol T 686)
- Hi-Fi Hammond Jackie Davis, vol. 2 (Capitol ST 1517), 1960, Los Angeles
- Big Beat Hammond (Capitol T 1686) , 1960 (?), Los Angeles
- Hammond Gone Cha-Cha (Capitol T 1338)
- Album pour Warner Bros (WS 1492), 1963, Los Angeles
- Album pour Warner Bros (WS 1515), 1963, New York et Los Angeles
- Album pour EMI (DU) 1A-054-26474, 1980, Heemstede, Pays-Bas
- Le LP Capitol Jumpin’ Jackie de 1957 a été réédité en 2001 en CD sous le titre: - Jackie Davis (The Story Of Jazz EMI Plus 724357621526, distribué par EMI).

Others:
- Louis Jordan, Man were wailin’ (TRIP TLP 5571), 1956 ou 1958 (d’origine Mercury 71206 (45 t), MG 20331 et Mercury anglais MPL 6541
- Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Time (Pablo 2310 825), 1978, réédité en CD (Pablo OJCDD 864



Originally article in the French laguage, click here.

W. de Haan [NL] (C) 2001-2008 www.jackiedavis.info

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