Anthony Davis (composer)

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Anthony Davis (born February 20, 1951), is an American pianist and composer. He incorporates several styles including jazz, rhythm 'n' blues, gospel, non-Western, African, European classical, Indonesian gamelan, and experimental music.[1] Davis is perhaps best known for his operas including X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X, which was premiered by the New York City Opera in 1986, Amistad, which premiered with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1997, and Wakonda's Dream, which premiered at Opera Omaha in 2007.


Davis was born in Paterson, New Jersey. He taught at Yale University and Harvard University, and has played with Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith. In 1981, Davis formed an octet called Episteme. He also wrote the incidental music for the Broadway version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America.

Davis has received acclaim as a free-jazz pianist, a co-leader or sideman with various ensembles. Such ensembles include those that featured Smith as bandleader from 1974 to 1977.

Davis is professor of music at the University of California, San Diego. His opera Wakonda's Dream is a tale of a contemporary Native American family and the history that affects them.

His opera Lilith (libretto by Allan Havis) had its world premiere at the Conrad Prebys Music Center in UCSD on December 4, 2009. The story is about Adam's first wife, set in a modern era.



  • Wayang V (Piano Concerto, 1984)
  • Maps (Violin Concerto, 1988)

(These two works were released on Gramavision 18-8807-1, a 12" long playing record, with Davis as soloist in the piano concerto and dedicatee Shem Guibbory as soloist in the violin concerto. In each, the William McGlaughlin led the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra.)



As leader/co-leader[edit]

  • 1978: Past Lives (VPA)
  • 1978: Of Blues and Dreams (Sackville)
  • 1978: Song for the Old World (India Navigation)
  • 1979: Hidden Voices (India Navigation) - with James Newton
  • 1980: Lady of the Mirrors (India Navigation)
  • 1980: Under the Double Moon (MPS) - with Jay Hoggard
  • 1981: Epistēmē (Gramavision)
  • 1982: I've Known Rivers (Gramavision)
  • 1982: Variations in Dream-Time (India Navigation)
  • 1983: Hemispheres (Gramavision)
  • 1984: Middle Passage (Gramavision)
  • 1985: Return from Space (Wonder Nonfiction) (Gramavision)
  • 1986: Undine (Gramavision)
  • 1988: Ghost Factory (Gramavision)
  • 1990: Trio, Vol. 2 (Gramavision)
  • 1989: Trio, Vol. 1 (Rhino)
  • 1993: Lost Moon Sisters/In Dora Ohrenstein's Urban Diva
  • 1992: X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (Gramavision)
  • 2001: Tania (Koch)
  • 2008: Amistad (New World)

As sideman[edit]

With Barry Altschul

With Ray Anderson

With Anthony Braxton

With Marion Brown

With Chico Freeman

With Jay Hoggard

  • Mystic Winds, Tropical Breezes (India Navigation, 1982)

With Leroy Jenkins

With George Lewis

With Bobby Previte

With David Murray

With Wadada Leo Smith


External links[edit]