Sam Records Releases "Nathan Davis The Hip Doctor"—Live in Paris 1966-67

Sam Records just issued a never before released series of absolutely rocking live performances by the under appreciated American-born tenor/soprano saxophonist and flutist Nathan Davis (1937-2018).

Davis was born in Kansas City two blocks from Charlie Parker's house, first played with Jay McShann, wrote a Ph.D dissertation on Parker and KC at the University of Kansas, travelled to Europe first in 1956 while in a college group and then the Navy School of Music (also attended by Coltrane and Adderley). He again traveled to Europe, this time playing on US. military bases, and decided to stay. He moved to Paris in 1961 and remained there until 1969, playing with the best French musicians and American ex-pats including Larry Young.

In 1965 he played in Art Blakey's short-lived "The New Jazzmen" group featuring Freddie Hubbard, Jake Byard and Reggie Workman, after which Blakey invited him to become musical director replacing Wayne Shorter, but Davis chose to remain with his family in Paris.

You'll have to read the notes accompanying this remarkable set for all of the head-spinning details of a life in jazz well lived (minus the clichéd tragic drug overdose ending) and a list of the greats with whom Davis shared the stage—that's if you can tear your ears away from listening to five sides of jazz from an era when visceral, physical blues based playing gave the music power and neck-down drive. The quotes from Davis explain that in using blues he's talking less about the "twelve bar thing" and more about the feel and ambiance of it. It's what drove him and you'll hear it all over this exciting set. You may wonder while listening why Blue Note didn't sign him. The label tried but he turned them down to "do his own thing".

The ballads are soulful and beautiful (a gorgeous flute version of "Yesterdays"), the gutbucket stuff is deep (Davis's "The Hip Walk"), rich and explosive and Davis's textured phrasing will have you anticipating the next churning turn. You'll hear the Coltrane connection in places but also the hard edged, R&B, almost rock (or strip club-like) "jump music" he played in his early days. I was reminded as much of Charlie Rouse as I was of Coltrane (with a side order of Leon Thomas!). Once the influences fade, Davis's style comes clearly into focus. Side 5 ends with the moving, mysterious "Blues For Southeast Asia" and when it concludes you'll come away knowing that Davis was a complete and versatile musician and if you are like me you’ll wonder how it’s possible that you’ve never before heard of him.

Sam label founder Fred Thomas became friends with Davis in 2005 after approaching him about reissuing Davis's famous and rare Peace Treaty recorded for the SFP label in 1965 featuring René Urteger, Jean-Louis Chautemps, Woody Shaw, Jimmy Woode and Kenny Clarke. Davis was also friends with Donald Byrd and played in Paris with him and Eric Dolphy. Thomas reissued that record and of course so many other great ones on his SAM Records label. This release is the first in a new "THE LOST LIVE SERIES" and is not surprisingly dedicated to Thomas's friend Nathan Davis.

This 2.5, 180 gram all-analog LP set packaged in a deluxe triple-gatefold jacket with photos by Jean-Pierre Leloir, sets the bar high for this kind of reissue: the sound (despite a few minor tape glitches) is transparent, three-dimensional and "you are in the club" natural. Even the audience sounds great. Never to be released digitally, the notes say, and limited to 1500 copies, all I can write is that when it arrived, I dropped everything to play it and then felt obligated to write this so AnalogPlanet readers can get their copies before none remain.

Most intriguing was an anecdote Mr. Thomas relates at the end of his notes (the annotation is by Down Beat contributor Jean Szlamowicz): in a conversation with Thomas, Mr. Davis recalls that a French label recorded him for ten nights in a row at the "Chat qui Peche" with a quintet featuring Kenny Clarke, Jimmy Woode, and Woody Shaw plus Larry Young on organ and piano. In a 2005 interview Davis told an writer that he'd heard some of the recordings and they were "...some of the best stuff I'd ever heard."

Those tapes have disappeared but Mr. Thomas is looking for them so stay tuned! (You can find this record on the Acoustic Sounds website and you can listen to it on the Sam Records website.

Cartel's picture
Anton D's picture

OK, I'm in.

Acoustic Sounds, here.

fetuso's picture

It's too bad they're not putting this out on cd. I have a few of the resonance records ORTF recordings on CD (Grant green, Larry young, wes montgomery) and they sound fantastic. I love AAA vinyl, but I just can't afford to get everything I want on vinyl (money and space).

ChrisS's picture

Cancel him.

ChrisS's picture

He can shit in someone else's sandbox.

MalachiLui's picture

If he has nothing good to do here, then why stay?

Cartel's picture

The thrill ain't gone! Excellent music and sound. Thanks Sam & INA.

misterc59's picture

This album sound and quality is awesome. I decided to order even though it's over $100cdn (shipping is a big killer), but, man, am I glad I did. Mucho gracias for the high recommendation! It's worth eating KD for a bit!