Walter Davis Jr.

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Walter Davis Jr.
Walter Davis, Jr..jpg
Photo by Carlo Rondinelli
Background information
Born (1932-09-02)September 2, 1932
Richmond, Virginia, U.S.
Died June 2, 1990(1990-06-02) (aged 57)
New York City
Genres Jazz, bebop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Piano
Years active 1940s–1990
Labels Blue Note, Denon, Palcoscenico, Mapleshade, SteepleChase
Associated acts Jazz Messengers

Walter Davis Jr. (September 2, 1932 – June 2, 1990) was an American hard bop pianist.


Born in Richmond, Virginia, Davis performed as a teenager with Babs Gonzales. In the 1950s, Davis recorded with Melba Liston, Max Roach and played with Roach, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1958 he played with trumpeter Donald Byrd at Le Chat Qui Pêche in Paris and shortly after realized his dream of becoming pianist and composer-arranger for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

After retiring from music in the 1960s to work as a tailor, painter, and designer, he returned in the 1970s to perform with Sonny Rollins and again with the Jazz Messengers. He recorded with many other prominent jazz musicians, including Kenny Clarke, Sonny Criss, Jackie McLean, Pierre Michelot and Archie Shepp.

Davis was known as an interpreter of the music of Bud Powell,[1] but also recorded an album capturing the compositional and piano style of Thelonious Monk. Although few of Davis' recordings as a pianist remain in print, several of his compositions served as titles for albums by Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Combining traditional harmonies with modal patterns and featuring numerous rhythmic shifts along with internal melodic motifs within operatic, aria-like sweeping melodies, Davis's compositions included "Scorpio Rising", "Backgammon", "Uranus", "Gypsy Folk Tales", "Jodi" and "Ronnie Is a Dynamite Lady".

Davis had an occasional role as the piano player on the CBS television comedy Frank's Place. He also contributed to the soundtrack of the Clint Eastwood film Bird.

Davis died in New York City on June 2, 1990, from complications of liver and kidney disease.


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Notes
1959 Davis Cup Blue Note Quintet, with Donald Byrd (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Sam Jones bass), Art Taylor (drums)
1977? Illumination Denon With Carter Jefferson (tenor sax), Charles Sullivan (trumpet), Jeremy Steig (flute), Buster Williams (bass), Bruno Carr, Art Blakey and Tony Williams (drums); Naná Vasconcelos (percussion), Milton Frustino (guitar) added for one track
1979? Night Song Denon Trio, with Tom Barney (bass, electric bass), Kenny Washington (drums)
Abide with Me Denon
1979? Blues Walk Red
A Being Such As You Red
1979? Uranus Palcoscenico
1979? 400 Years Ago Tomorrow
1981? Live au Dreher Trio, with Pierre Michelot (bass), Kenny Clarke (drums); in concert
1987 In Walked Thelonious Mapleshade Solo piano
1989 Scorpio Rising SteepleChase Trio, with Santi Debriano (bass), Ralph Peterson (drums)
1990? Jazznost: Moscow-Washington Jazz Summit

As sideman[edit]

With Art Blakey

With Nick Brignola

With Donald Byrd

With Sonny Criss

With Walt Dickerson

With Teddy Edwards

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Slide Hampton

With Etta Jones

With Philly Joe Jones

With Jackie McLean

With Hank Mobley

With Max Roach

With Julian Priester

With Sonny Rollins

With Charlie Rouse

With Art Taylor


  1. ^ Goldsher, Alan (2002). Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, p. 94. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-03793-5.

External links[edit]