- Anthony Davis (b. 1951)
- Boston Modern Orchestra Project
- Gil Rose, conductor
San Diego jazz musicians made some excellent recordings in 2014, several of which could easily make an argument for the No. 1 position on this “best-of” compilation. I always agonize on how to rate them, and ultimately, it’s never an easy decision. In the end, I’ve got to go with what floored me the hardest. In that respect, I’m comfortable with the Top 2 in that order, and I could probably vacillate on the relative placement of the others until 2015. Oh, wait -- I already did that! So here are my favorite San Diego jazz recordings of last year.
MacArthur Fellow Anthony Davis (b. 1951) is probably best known for his explosive political operas (X: The Life and Times of Malcom X is the most notorious). His music has as its formative influences 60s avant-grade jazz figures like Charlie Haden (his Liberation Orchestra with Carla Bley) and Sun Ra, updated with more contemporary characteristics like minimalist repetition and non-Western ethnic techniques.
Of all the contemporary jazz artists who have crossed-over to classical orchestral music and other large-scale forms, Anthony Davis is certainly among the most prominent, with multiple compositions, performances and albums going back decades. He also is one of the most original, with a style of his very own. I consider him among a small handful of the very best jazz composers working in classical configurations.
Anthony Davis is, in my opinion, one of America’s greatest and most unique composers. His music comes at you from a number of different, intriguing and artistically important perspectives. As a jazz pianist, himself, Davis often brings a sense of the improvised and the most progressive jazz harmonies and momentum to his work. There are not only direct references to some jazz greats, such as Duke Ellington, in his music; such as the captivating Notes from the Underground, but a sense of jazz orientation in a number of his works.