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Nathan Davis (saxophonist)

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Nathan Davis
Birth nameNathan Tate Davis
Born(1937-02-15)February 15, 1937
Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.
DiedApril 8, 2018(2018-04-08) (aged 81)
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Instrument(s)Tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute
Years active1960s–2018
Formerly of
  • Nathan Davis Sextet
  • Nathan Davis Quartet

Nathan Tate Davis (February 15, 1937 – April 8, 2018) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist who played the tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, and flute. He is known for his work with Eric Dolphy, Kenny Clarke, Ray Charles, Slide Hampton and Art Blakey.[1][2]



Davis traveled extensively around Europe after World War II and moved to Paris in 1962. He held a Ph.D in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and was a professor of music and director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh from 1969, an academic program that he helped initiate.[3] He was also founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Annual Jazz Seminar and Concert, the first academic jazz event of its kind in the United States.[4] He also helped to found the university's William Robinson Recording Studio as well as establish the International Academy of Jazz Hall of Fame located in the school's William Pitt Union and the University of Pittsburgh-Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives.[5] Davis retired as director of the Jazz Studies Program at Pitt in 2013.[6][7] Davis also served as the editor of the International Jazz Archives Journal.[8]

One of Davis' best known musical associations was heading the Paris Reunion Band (1985–1989), which at different times included Nat Adderley, Kenny Drew, Johnny Griffin, Slide Hampton, Joe Henderson, Idris Muhammad, Dizzy Reece, Woody Shaw, and Jimmy Woode. Davis also toured and recorded with the post-bop ensemble leading Roots which he formed in 1991.[9][10]

Davis composed various pieces, including a 2004 opera entitled Just Above My Head.[11]

Davis died of natural causes in Palm Beach, Florida, at the age of 81.[12]

Awards and honors


On October 5, 2013, Davis was awarded the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation's BNY Mellon Jazz Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.[13]



As leader



  1. ^ Musto, Russ (March 11, 2005). "Nathan Davis Profile". All About Jazz.
  2. ^ Carr, Ian; Fairweather, Digby; Priestley, Brian (1995). Jazz: The Rough Guide. The Rough Guides. p. 162. ISBN 1-85828-137-7.
  3. ^ "Nathan Davis". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  4. ^ Conyers, James L. (2001). African American Jazz and Rap. McFarland. pp. 95, 104, 109. ISBN 0-7864-0828-6.
  5. ^ Karlovits, Bob (April 26, 2013). "Creative jazz educator Nathan Davis to retire". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 8, 2013.
  6. ^ Nowlin, Rick (July 31, 2013). "After 44 years of running Pitt's jazz studies program, Nathan Davis is moving on". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  7. ^ Blake, Sharon (August 22, 2013). "43rd Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert Set for November" (Press release). University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved August 26, 2013.
  8. ^ "Pitt Jazz Collection, 1971-2011 UA.". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved September 12, 2023.
  9. ^ "Nathan Davis". All About Jazz. April 19, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  10. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Nathan Davis Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Karlovits, Bob (January 22, 2013). "Nathan Davis duet will have premiere at New York's Carnegie Hall". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  12. ^ Nowlin, Rick (April 12, 2018). "Obituary: Nathan Davis / Pioneer in jazz education". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  13. ^ Karlovits, Bob (May 8, 2013). "Pitt director of jazz studies Nathan Davis to receive legacy award in D.C." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved May 8, 2013.