Steve Davis: Happy Birthday! to the Trombone Master and Local Hero

Apr 14, 2017

Today is Steve Davis's 50th birthday, which means he was born in the middle of the first month of the Impossible Dream season of the Boston Red Sox. Stevie-D is one of the most ardent Red Sox fans on the planet, but more importantly, he's a master trombonist; a tireless teacher, mentor, bandleader, and denizen of jam sessions near and far; and a dedicated keeper of a lineage that includes J.J. Johnson, Slide Hampton, and Curtis Fuller.

I’ve known Steve for about 20 years and first heard him at the 880 Club in Hartford closer to 30 years ago. Since then, I’ve seen him on bandstands here, there, and everywhere, including the Jazz à la Mode 30th anniversary celebration in Springfield in 2014. Stevie-D, as Jackie McLean affectionately dubbed him, arrived in West Hartford in 1985 to study at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music where McLean directed the jazz studies program that now bears his name. 

Jay Mac took pride in his young charge and recommended him to his former boss Art Blakey. In 1989, the Worcester-born, Binghampton, NY-raised trombonist became the last recruit of the Jazz Messengers and spent the next two years playing in Blakey’s august academy of hard bop proteges. Davis then played with McLean’s sextet, Rhythms of the Earth, through 1997, then, as he discusses in the interview, spent a few years criss-crossing the globe with Chick Corea’s Origin.

Davis has also been a member of Slide Hampton's World of Trombones, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, the Jimmy Heath Big Band, a founding member of One for All, and a session player and sideman on countless recordings. He's made a lot of his own too, and has a new release that'll be out next month on Smoke Sessions. The jazz world knows Stevie-D as a giant, and many of us in the Connecticut River Valley know him as a great guy and local hero.

I spoke with Stevie-D nearly two years ago about the album he'd just completed in tribute to J.J. Johnson. Click here for a handy way of connecting with our conversation, which runs just over 50 minutes and offers an overview of Davis's illustrious career.