Originally from Kansas City, Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Kansas and his PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University in Connecticut. After college, he played for two-and-a-half years in the U.S. Army Band while based in Berlin in what was then West Germany. Upon discharge, he remained in Europe and eventually settled for several years in Paris, where he performed and recorded with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, among them Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Donald Byrd, Ray Charles, Pittsburgh-born Kenny Clarke, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, and Woody Shaw.
Davis studied ethnomusicology at the Sorbonne in 1967 and composition under French composer and eminent jazz critic André Hodeir in 1968 before he received the offer to create a jazz studies program and teach at Pitt. Davis has composed more than 200 original compositions, among them not only jazz works and Jazzopera, but film scores and four symphonies as well. He has authored several books, including Flute Improvisation (Armstrong Publishing, 1975); African American Music: A Philosophical Look at African American Music in Society (Ginn Pr, 1996), which he coauthored with his wife, Ursula Broschke Davis; and Writings in Jazz (Kendall/Hunt, 2002).
Editor’s note: Sharon S. Blake is senior news representative, University News & Magazines, Office of Public Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org