Sometimes, a musician is described as someone who has, “played with everyone.” It usually means they’re a “musician’s musician,” have an enviable CV and have done quite a bit of high profile sideman work over many years. Trombonist/composer Michael Davis takes this narrative into the stratosphere, with a diverse and acclaimed career currently over the 40 year mark, and proceeding unimpeded, full-steam ahead. Davis is widely known as the trombonist for five world tours with the Rolling Stones, and touring and recording extensively with Frank Sinatra. Davis spent two amazing years with the Buddy Rich Big Band, and as testimony to his versatility and wide regard, the list of jazz and pop luminaries he has worked with includes: James Taylor, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Tony Bennett, Jay Z, Sarah Vaughan, Sting, Beck, Branford Marsalis, Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Bob Mintzer, Paul Simon, David Sanborn, Terence Blanchard and scores of others. To date, he has released fourteen CDs as a solo artist, composed over a hundred and fifty works, authored a dozen books for brass players of all levels and appeared on over five hundred CDs, television themes and motion picture soundtracks. He is the founder, creator and president of Hip-Bone Music, Inc. In 2011, the S.E. Shires Company released the Michael Davis signature model trombone and followed that in 2014 with the release of the Michael Davis+ trombone. In the field of music education, Davis has served as a guest artist and clinician around the world, while also authoring a number of highly esteemed instructional books and arrangements for musicians of all ages and abilities. The artist is also a multiple recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Michael Davis’ new recording, available everywhere on Hip-Bone Music on June 23, 2023, is titled Open
City. From the opening notes of “Hossland,” (with tremendous solos from Charles Pillow, Scott Wendholt and David Mann), waves of beauty, optimism, joy and hope surge from your speakers, potentially lifting you up, and washing away any worry, sorrow or pain . . . yes, it possesses a remarkably subtle potency, and, is in accord with the theme and aesthetic of this remarkable recording: Open City is a musical reflection on the inclusive, open nature of being a musician in post pandemic New York City. “The joy of being back performing live with other musicians, going into a studio to record our projects, sharing the challenges we all faced as performing artists and building back the business we all share so much passion for,” said Davis.
Open City marks Davis’ fourteenth album as a leader, and his sophomore recording fronting his acclaimed Hip-
Bone Big Band. He has assembled a star-studded cast of New York City jazz and studio luminaries including Steve Wilson, David Mann, Andy Snitzer, Troy Roberts, Charles Pillow, Judy Lee, Mike Rodriguez, Scott Wendholt, Tony Kadleck, Marshall Gilkes, Ryan Keberle, Bill Reichenbach, Andy Ezrin, David Finck and Jared Schonig.
In addition to highlighting Davis’ rousing and dynamic sound as a player and writer, Open City showcases a unique family alliance with Davis’ eldest son Cole Davis penning three of the compositions (“Open City,” “Three and Out” & “Dark Horse”), and playing bass on four tracks, while Davis’ younger son Zaq Davis brings his talents to the trumpet section (on tracks 1, 4, 6, 7, 8). Cole Davis also co-produced the entire project with his dad and contributed the title track, which according to the older Davis, is, “definitely the strongest piece on the album.”
More on the music on Open City:
The aforementioned Hossland is a musical tribute to Davis’ cousin Dan Blocker who played Hoss in the TV series Bonanza. It features outstanding solo work from tenor saxophonist Charles Pillow and trumpeter Scott Wendholt.
Open City is Cole’s compositional tour-de-force with exquisite solos from saxophonist Troy Roberts and Grammy award winning trumpeter Mike Rodriguez. An A+ level shout chorus featuring drummer Jared Schonig and exceptional counterpoint throughout the entire band.
Three and Out taps into Cole’s influences from Wayne Shorter and Kenny Wheeler and features his virtuosic bass soloing, as well as pianist extraordinaire Andy Ezrin.
Cole Henry was composed by Michael for his 2 year old Cole many moons ago. It has been recorded in a variety of settings, most notably on Michael’s Trumpets Eleven CD with Tom Harrell. This arrangement by Bret Zvacek features stellar soprano playing by Steve Wilson, as well as solos by Cole on bass and his brother Zaq on flugelhorn.
State of the Art was originally written for Jerry Hey’s outstanding LA horn section for Michael’s 2000 release Brass Nation. Staying with the title, Davis’ updated arrangement for big band features the state of the art in trombone playing, Marshall Gilkes, and trumpet playing, Mike Rodriguez.
Underdog captures the spirit and feeling we all experience from time to time and showcases Davis’ trombone playing, Andy Ezrin on piano and Andy Snitzer on tenor saxophone.
Dark Horse is another compositional master stroke from Cole Davis and features the great Ryan Keberle on trombone, and Cole in the bass chair.
Arranged by Eric Schmitz, Ladybug is another showcase for the great Steve Wilson and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. “Hats off also to drum virtuoso Jared Schonig,” said Davis.
Cat Walk is a musical nod to those seemingly scary walks in the rafters of theaters. This tune serves as a vehicle to showcase a variety of soloists, including alto saxophonist Matt Hong, bass trombonist Bill Reichanbach, tenor saxophonist Sam Dillon, and Davis, again on tenor trombone.
A follow up to the very popular Trombone Institute of Technology from the first Hip-Bone Big Band CD, Bone Man Walking highlights the stellar saxophone, trumpet and trombone sections sans rhythm. Originally composed by Davis as a vehicle for solo trombone, it has been adapted for brass quintet, symphonic band and now finally the big band version you hear here.
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Saxophones: David Mann, Steve Wilson, Matt Hong, Andy Snitzer, Troy Roberts, Charles Pillow, Sam Dillon, Frank Basile,
Trumpets: Nick Marchione, Tony Kadleck, Jim Hynes, Scott Wendholt, Maneco Ruiz, Zaq Davis, Mike Rodriguez, French
Horn: Judy Yin-Chi Lee, Trombones: Michael Davis, Marshall Gilkes, Ryan Keberle, Bill Reichenbach, Rhythm: Andy
Ezrin (piano), David Finck (bass), Cole Davis (bass), Jared Schonig (drums), Produced by Michael Davis & Cole Davis