A superb bass technician who doesn't have as extensive a recorded legacy as expected, Richard Davis has a wonderful tone, is excellent with either the bow or fingers, and stands out in any situation. He has been a remarkable free, bebop, and hard bop player, served in world-class symphony orchestras, backed vocalists, and engaged in stunning duets with fellow bassists. He does any and everything well in terms of bass playing: accompaniment, soloing, working with others in the rhythm section, responding to soloists, or playing unison passages. He combines upper-register notes with low sounds coaxed through the use of open strings.
Davis left New York in 1977 to teach at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he has remained as a professor into the 21st century. Concurrent with his life as an educator, he continued making intermittent appearances as a performer, including at the Aurex Jazz Festival in Tokyo in 1982, playing in a jam session led by trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and at the 1984 Chicago Jazz Festival. Davis was featured in the 1982 film Jazz in Exile. He's done relatively few recordings as a leader, though three Muse sessions are available on CD. The superb The Philosophy of the Spiritual, which matched Davis and fellow bassist Bill Lee, is not in print or on CD. Notable Richard Davis recordings during the 21st century include The Bassist: Homage to Diversity (a duo recording with John Hicks) issued by Palmetto in 2001, as well as two Japanese releases on the King label, So in Love in 2001 and Blue Monk (with pianist Junior Mance) in 2008. ~ Ron Wynn