One of the leading jazz trombonists of his generation, Steve Davis is an adept improvisor known for his own albums and his work as a member of the all-star ensemble One for All and Chick Corea & Origin. A protégé of saxophonist Jackie McLean, Davis emerged in the late '80s as a member of one of drummer Art Blakey's final Jazz Messengers lineups. After Blakey's death, he embarked on a fruitful solo career, issuing a bevy of well-regarded albums for Criss Cross including The Jaunt and later, albums for Posi-Tone like Images: The Hartford Suite, all of which showcased his love of acoustic hard bop. As a founding member of the Blakey-inspired One for All, he has issued a bevy of hugely popular albums like 2003's Wide Horizons and 2016's The Third Decade, playing alongside bandmates Eric Alexander and Jim Rotondi. Along with performing, he is also a highly regarded educator, having taught since the early '90s at his alma mater, the University of Hartford's Hartt College of Music.
Born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1967, Steve Davis was raised in Binghamton, New York where he took an early interest in jazz attending concerts with his father, including memorable shows by Elvin Jones and Art Blakey. He also drew inspiration early on from his maternal grandmother, a self-taught stride pianist who often performed in local restaurants. By age six he was picking out basslines on the piano, and later studied trumpet, baritone saxophone, and tuba. It was during high school that he switched to trombone, playing in the school concert band. Also during his teens, he gained crucial jazz experience while attending the summer jazz workshop at SUNY Binghamton where Bob Brookmeyer and Joe Lovano were instructors. He also spent three years as a member of the Binghamton Youth Symphony. After high school, he honed his skills studying at the University of Hartford's Hartt College of Music, where he was mentored by alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. Upon graduating, Davis relocated to New York City, where McLean recommended him to legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey as a replacement for Frank Lacy in 1989. Davis remained with the Jazz Messengers until Blakey's death in 1990, and made his recorded debut with the band on 1990's One for All.
In the early '90s, the trombonist (who had taught since the mid-'80s) returned to Hartford to join his mentor McLean on the jazz faculty at the Hartt College of Music. Since then, he has balanced his time between teaching and performing. Beginning with 1996's The Jaunt, Davis issued a series of highly regarded acoustic jazz albums for Criss Cross. Subsequent Criss Cross dates like 1997's Dig Deep, 1998's Crossfire, and 2000's Vibe Up! showcased the trombonist's adept, hard bop-influenced sound. Also during this period, Davis contributed to albums with John Swana, Conrad Herwig, Avishai Cohen, and others. He also joined influential pianist Chick Corea & Origin ensemble, appearing on 1998's Live at the Blue Note, 1999's Change, and 2000's Originations.