Francis Davis (born August 30, 1946) is an American author and journalist. He is best known as the jazz critic for The Village Voice, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly. He has also worked in radio and film, and taught courses on Jazz and Blues at the University of Pennsylvania. He was a 1994 recipient of the Pew Fellowships in the Arts.
Life and career
Davis was born in Philadelphia. He attended Temple University (1964–69); he emerged in the early 1980s as the jazz critic for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Along with his jazz writing he has tackled wide-ranging subjects from Seinfeld to Johnny Cash, for whom he published to what many fans consider the definitive appreciation, in The Atlantic Monthly. Davis is characterized by his keen insights into the development of American style and culture, with asides in the first person that balance his theoretical certainty and a witty, human element. His articles and essays on figures ranging from Frank Sinatra to Anthony Davis impart a sharp picture of a writer coming of age, and aging, with the artists of his generation.
Over the past few decades he has sat with Betty Carter, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis, Sun Ra, and the late New Yorker film critic, Pauline Kael, after whose lengthy discussions Davis penned, Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael.
Along with international publication Davis has been widely recognized with awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1992, and a Pew Fellowship the following year. He is a multiple recipient of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1989 (with Martin Williams and Dick Katz) for his liner notes to Jazz Piano for the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings.
Stanley Crouch, a famed jazz critic who frequently writes about race relations, took Davis to task in a 2003 Jazz Times column for speaking with condescension toward the predominantly black contingent of musicians who create "jazz that is based on swing and blues." Because of underlying racial resentment and fear, Davis "lifts up someone like, say, Dave Douglas as an antidote to too much authority from the dark side of the tracks," according to Crouch. Crouch was fired from Jazz Times after writing the column.
- In the Moment (Oxford University Press, 1986)
- Outcats (Oxford University Press, 1990)
- The History of the Blues (Hyperion, 1995)
- Bebop and Nothingness (Schirmer, 1996)
- Like Young (Da Capo, 2001)
- Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael (Da Capo, 2002)
- Jazz and Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader (Da Capo, 2004)
- Report of the President and of the Treasurer (John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1994), p. 54.
- Report of the President and of the Treasurer, p. 54.
- Stanley Crouch, "Putting the White Man In Charge", April 2003, Jazz Times.
- Daniel King, "Hanging the Judge - Crouch, Jazz & the All-American Skin Game", May 13, 2003, Village Voice.