For the moment, this is my final bowing-low in a series in honor of Eddy Davis (even though I have more music and words from December 26, 2019, to share). I’ve devoted nearly a week of posts to him because of the intense emotional collision of grief and joy he brings forth in me and those who knew him and enjoyed his work. His play, I should say. I’ve been going backwards chronologically, and although I saw and enjoyed Eddy and “Wild Reeds and Wicked Rhythm” at The Cajun possibly very early in 2005, this 2006 session was the first time I brought a video camera there.
Ordinarily, the band would have been Eddy; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano; Greg Cohen or Debbie Kennedy, string bass, with guests. For this night — July 5, 2006 — it was Eddy, Scott, Conal, Dmitri Kolesnikov, string bass, Michael Hashim on alto and soprano saxophones, with a guest appearance by Bob Ringwald, piano and vocal.
The camera I was then using recorded to mini-DVD discs, a particularly stubborn medium, so these videos stayed on the shelf until 2017, when I found that I could transfer and share them. I asked Eddy if that was something he would like (he did) and then asked if he would write something about the gig:
WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHM
I, Eddy Davis, have in my lifetime had the pleasure of having many wonderful Jazz Bands filled with wonderful musicians. It all started back in “The Windy City” in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I was a Composition student at the Chicago Conservatory and working as a band leader for the Syndicate on Chicago’s infamous Rush Street. Boy, those were the days. During this time many great, interesting musicians came through the band.
Fellows like “Kansas” Fields, who had just returned from a ten year stint in Paris and Charles “Truck” Parham who started in the music business as a truck driver for the Fletcher Henderson Band. He was hauling the band instruments from job to job. When I asked Truck how he got his nickname he told me this story. He said: “One night the bass player got drunk and couldn’t play, so Fletcher said “Hey, Truck, get up on the band stand and act like you are playing the bass.” He said he liked it so much that he bought a bass and learned to play it. When he came to my band he had just gotten off the Pearl Bailey/Louie Bellson trio. When he left my band he joined the CBS staff orchestra. I was lucky enough to have the likes of Frank Powers or Bobby Gordon on Clarinet. I had the wonderful Norman Murphy on trumpet who had been in the Brass section of Gene Krupa’s Big Band. I also had the hilarious Jack “The Bear” Brown on trumpet. My band played opposite the original “Dukes of Dixieland” for a solid year at the club “Bourbon Street” in the middle. There were the Asuntos — Frank, on Trumpet — Freddie on Trombone and PaPa Jack on Trombone and Banjo. Gene Schroeder was on piano (where I learned so much) and the fantastic Barrett Deems on Drums.
At the Sari-S Showboat I was in the band of the great Trombonist Grorg Brunis, the Marsala Brothers, Joe and Marty, along with “Hey Hey” Humphries on drums, were also on the band. Another great band I played on was listed as Junie Cobb’s “Colonels of Corn.” The main reason this band was so great was that they were the very originals of JASS MUSIC. Junie was a multi-instrumentalist who on this band was playing Piano (he also recorded on Banjo). Al Wynn who had been the musical director for the great blues singer “Ma Rainey” was on Trombone and the wonderful Darnell Howard, who made terrific recordings with “Jelly Roll Morton,” was on Clarinet. We were playing at the Sabre Room and I was 17 (maybe 16) years old. I was a member of the last Jabbo Smith “Rhythm Aces” in New York City in the 1970’s.
Well, I could go on and on, but I’ll just say that the band “Wild Reeds and Wicked Rhythm” which I had for four or five years at the “Cajun Restaurant” on 16th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan was the thrill of my life. With the GREAT Scott Robinson and Orange Kellin on Reeds and Debbie Kennedy on Bass and MY BROTHER from a another mother — Conal Fowkes — was on Piano (he knows what I’m going to do before I do it and fits me like a glove). These were perhaps the most satisfying Musical Evenings I’ve ever known.
Scott Robinson is easily the best (for me) musical mind and player I’ve ever been in the presents of. I couldn’t come up with enough words to express my JOY with this band for those several years we performed every Wednesday night at the Cajun Restaurant in the great town of Manhattan.
We had two great subs on the night of this video. Dmitri Kolesnikov was on bass and on saxophone, the truly wonderful “The Hat” Michael Hashim.
Mr. Steinman, I would like to thank you so very much for supplying these videos and if you or anyone else has any other footage of any combination of this band, it would please me to no end to know of it.
The Banjoist Eddy “The Manhattan Minstrel” Davis
SWING THAT MUSIC:
WHO WALKS IN WHEN I WALK OUT? / HAPPY BIRTHDAY / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
AFTER YOU’VE GONE / OLD BONES / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME / TROUBLE IN MIND, all with vocals by Bob Ringwald:
BLACK BEAUTY / SWEET MAMA (vocal Eddy) / THE CASTLE RENOVATED:
THE CASTLE, concluded (with apologies to Dmitri):
DAPHNE / MY FRIEND (vocal / composition by Conal) / TOO MANY IRONS IN THE FIRE (Conal):
This band was — without exaggeration — a doctoral seminar in ensemble playing and collective momentum. It was an honor to be there, and a greater honor to be able to share these videos with you. And this was a complete evening at the Cajun, just under two hours of live performance. It is as close as any of us will get to that deeply-remembered and now-departed experience.
Debbie Kennedy, the wonderful bassist, Eddy’s dear friend (I think she’d also call herself a student at the University of Davis) has written lovingly about Eddy, and I present her words here:
Eddy was one of the most amazing musicians I ever met in my entire life. SUCH a character with a fierce love of music. One of the best bandleaders I’ve ever played with. I just hope that his passing was painless and that his transition was smooth.
Apart from all the incredible happiness/joy that I experienced from playing with Eddy every Wednesday night at the “Cajun” restaurant from 2000 to 2006 in an extremely special band, I lucked out in 2008 and won a Greencard in the “Greencard Lottery.” Part of that process was that the immigration authorities needed a “Letter of Employment” showing that I would be earning a certain amount of money every year (even though I’d already been living in NYC for 10 years and earned enough to support myself comfortably, I guess they wanted to see that I would be self sufficient and not claim welfare).
Eddy very kindly wrote that Letter of Employment for me, stating that I was working with Woody Allen’s band (which was the truth – I had subbed frequently with the band starting October 2004, but I still wasn’t yet playing on a weekly basis when he wrote it). I strongly feel that his letter (especially with the name “Woody Allen”) clinched the decision for my Greencard to be granted.
Thank you Eddy!!
Then, eventually, he was kind enough to have me on the gig with Woody every week, starting a few years ago. It was actually Greg Cohen’s gig, but Greg moved to Berlin at a certain point around 2011 / 2012, so I did end up playing the gig on a weekly basis at that time, when Greg moved to Berlin.
This was an absolutely invaluable experience and was the gig that kept me alive when so many other freelance gigs had dwindled in recent years.
I feel incredibly indebted to Eddy and I feel blessed to have had such regular playing with him for so many years: Giving me the steady gig at the Cajun in 2000, and when that finished in August 2006, I still played with him pretty regularly, culminating in playing every week with him in the Woody band right up until last month.
March 9th was our last gig.
Like some others who knew Eddy well, I thought he was invincible and thought he was going to pull through this – he’d pulled through so many other illnesses before: terrible car accident, shingles, hellish Sciatica, High Cholesterol, high blood pressure, Diabetes…you name it, he’d had it (and he loved to tell you all about it, ha, ha! 😉).
Nothing will equal the pure joy that I felt on such a deep level when we were in the middle of playing a tune, him horsing around, having a great ol’ time.
Rest In Peace, my beautiful friend ❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Eddy loved what I will call “false endings,” where the band appeared to have concluded the song and the performance — and the audience would applaud — but, no, they weren’t through as he would (grinning hugely) launch into a bravura ending that left us cheering.
I think of those “false endings” as a metaphor for Eddy and his art. He appears to have gone, but he hasn’t. As long as we can hear him, see him in videos (and he left us hundreds of solo performances from his apartment), and remember him, he ain’t gone.
Incidentally, I have been posting Barbara Rosene’s painting of The Cajun because it pleases me so — Debbie Kennedy is in it as well as Eddy, Scott Robinson, and Simon Wettenhall — but Barbara has done many other paintings of jazz clubs, landscapes, and abstracts — that are not yet in private collections. And you know me: I only promote artists (visual as well as musical) whose work I love: find out more here.
May your happiness increase!