JASON DAVIS - Dallas Track Factory
After trying lots of mouthpieces over the years I have found that as a versatile musician, I need a versatile mouthpiece. The DURGA #9 is that mouthpiece. My Texas Tenor approach is enhanced by the strong tone and warm sound that I get out of it.
Jason Davis (Texas Tenor) is a saxophonist, composer and bandleader born in Dallas, Texas. Jason Davis was the wind and brass arranger and section leader of the multi-platinum and Grammy Award winning group God's Property in the late 1990's. He performed live on the 1998 Soul Train Music Awards with Kirk Franklin. His recording career has led him to the top of the Billboard Jazz Charts with groups like Pieces of a Dream. He also has produced hugely successful CD projects for Children's Literacy, Kwanzaa, Environmental Awareness and New Orleans Traditional Dance Music. Outside of his Gospel and Jazz roots he is now managing the recording studio at The South Dallas Cultural Center. He is a graduate of Lincoln High School and studied music education at Texas College in Tyler, Texas and Weatherford College. Mr. Davis has had the pleasure of studying music with great bandmasters like Dean Hill, Norman Fisher, Prof. James Williams Sr. and Rev. Sylvester Wallace. This amazing musical foundations has lead to a 30 year performance and recording career that includes names like Cuba Gooding Sr., David "Fathead" Newman, Dougie Fresh, Roy Ayers, Tony Terry, Mel Waiters, The East Texas Symphony, Judy Collins and many more. Presently, Jason Davis is performing music live and preparing for a tour of Japan and South America in 2014. The Dallas Morning News, Arts and Life section featured him on the front page after his legendary concert with The Dallas Jazz Collective at the new City Performance Hall. Jason is a dynamic performer and prides himself in reaching his audience with dynamic artistic musical moments.
Why did you choose to become a musician?
In 1983 Sylvester Wallace walked into my 4th Grade class room and told the teacher that he wanted her 5 smartest students to be in the band. I was one of those 5 kids. I went to the band-hall asked for a clarinet and two weeks later I was playing J.S. Bach and Whitney Houston songs at school programs. Church was a major part of my understanding of music and how it moves people. So I began playing sax at church and clarinet at school. My parents began buying me music by Ella Fitzgerald and Cannonball Adderly. Later on I figured out how to merge the two approaches and started listening to soulful jazz seriously at about age 11.
What is your experience when you feel connected into the music?
What is your experience of when you don't feel connected to your music?
When I don't feel connected to the music I most often exit the scene. Some tactics have been to pick up another instrument, put the horn in the case, circular breath a note to search for how I fit into the structure of the piece or simply take the horn out of my mouth and listen for what may be causing the disconnect. There is so much beauty in the unknown areas of sound so I tend to love what comes right after a so called mistake. This allows me to feel connected to some very uncommon musical situations.
Where does your inspiration comes from? What does it feel like?
My inspiration comes like a church service. God gives me the music and different styles and musical elements help me to filter the sound to the audience. Sometimes they respond and the energy continues to circulate and flow. My fellow musicians are a major inspiration as we perform together. I learned to play from great teachers like Sly Wallace, Dean Hill and Norman Fisher; outside of school I hung out with Jazz musicians that were older than my parents. They made me their peer and the love for the music was the crux of every lesson and conversation. The respect for the greats and the lives that they lead just to make a living playing music truly inspires me.
What is your experience while improvising? Does it relate to any spirituality you may practice in your life?
Billy Harper taught some friends of mine who passed on the message to me; to say my name inside of my improvisations. I began trying to maneuver different rhythms into this approach. Then I got out some old Lee Morgan with Billy Harper and began to see how to apply it to songs. It then dawned on me what it means when folks talk about music being a language. Early on when I was about 17 I played with one of the best selling Gospel groups of all time. Watching the way thousands of people reacted to our music day after day was an eye opener. Music is powerful!
Created by God and as Sun Ra says "That is how he sees us; according to our music!" My improvisational style is very verbal, rhythmic, spontaneous and energetic. I've gone through learning phases but recently in a Master Class I conducted with trumpeter Roy Hargrove, he said something to the students that helped to punctuate my improvisational style. His instructions were to end your solos at the highest point and make them want more. Besides these influences, I believe that it is very necessary to know the lyrics to the song that you are playing and that alone can give you the ticket. Even more deeply I constantly rely on studies by Alvin Batiste, Anthony Braxton and Jerry Bergonzi for control of my instrument and musical openness. One thing I try not to do while improvising is over think things.
Where does your inspiration while composing come from? What is your experience of that inspiration like?
All day long I record little melodies into my phone or I may write on a napkin during lunch. I have a large box full of things that I started writing and didn't complete. I use all of these things to put a song into motion. Recently for my environmental music project I just watched You Tube videos of environmental hazards and took notes. The groove has to be natural. Every instrument involved has to have a groove of its own and once I get that part figured out I leave it alone for a while then come back to it to see if it is still appealing. If it doesn't groove then it goes into the big box. If it grooves then I will use it in the mix. I like writing by hand first then taking things to MIDI and then to audio tracks or hiring real live players. The last thing I do is to give the song a title. If I try to name the song first then it always comes out cheesy. When recording songs I hold musicians to the first or second take.
Do you have any fun stories of inspirational moments to share?
Two times in my life I have been playing my sax outside; once on a high rise building and once in the Deep Ellum area of Dallas. On both occasions people approached me and told me that for their entire lives they have been completely deaf and that me playing the saxophone was the first sound that they have ever heard. Those moments made me understand how important it is to play and understand that it's bigger than me!