Listening to Lowell Davidson

I have long admired Lowell Davidson Trio with Gary Peacock and Milford Graves on ESP. Davidson was supported by Ornette Coleman and an influence on Keith Jarrett, with an approach somewhere between the fury of Cecil Taylor and the romance of Paul Bley.

On Uncle Paul’s Jazz Closet, Paul Motian’s niece Cynthia McGuirl has been posting rehearsal tapes and other exceptionally rare artifacts with Davidson, Motian, and others.

The latest podcast has a fair amount of Davidson/Motian duo. It is a bit harsh sonically (the drums are too loud: there was just one mic in the room) but some amazing piano is in evidence.

The legend is Jarrett got interested in using Motian for his own music after hearing a tape of Motian with Davidson: the drummer known for delicate brushwork with Bill Evans was also a ferocious avant-gardist! I’m not sure of the chronology. The Harvard Crimson review of a gig of Davidson, Peacock, and Graves together in 1965 implies that Davidson performances in Boston were reasonably common. Jarrett was in Boston ’63-’64. However Davidson was also frequently in New York working with Ornette.

Other Jazz Closet podcasts featuring Davidson are an episode co-hosted by bassist John Voigt and an episode with 1988 Davidson tapes released by multi-instrumentalist Richard Poole two years ago. “Round About” is an especially gratifying listen. On both episodes are intriguing trios with Voigt, Tom Plsek, and Joe Morris: musicians who knew Davidson create vibrant pieces from Davidson’s graphic scores.

Cindy’s podcast commentary is valuable, including readings from Motian’s still unpublished autobiography. Motian explains some of his history with Davidson and how a 1976 trio tape of Davidson, Voight, and Motian was sent to ECM but the tape had deteriorated. However, I’m also still curious about what Jarrett could have heard of Davidson and Motian together in the mid-sixties.

It’s a shame so much of this music has been lost forever. “Gone in the air,” as Eric Dolphy said.