Sunday, September 9, 2007

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Pianist Kenn Cox had just finished playing an hour set with his new percussion ensemble Kenn Cox & Drum at the Mack Avenue Records Pyramid Stage at the Detroit International Jazz Festival last weekend. I was backstage talking to Cox about one of his former band-mates saxophonist Leon Henderson the brother of the late saxophonist Joe Henderson. I was telling Cox that I was having difficulty finding information about Leon for an article I want write. I told Cox writer Herb Boyd told me that Leon was dead. The stage manager interrupted our conversation. He needed to talk with Cox about some money the pianist was owned for his performance. Drummer George Davidson approached me when Cox left with the stage manager.
The drummer shook my hand. Then he said to me that he no longer played the drums loudly. At the jazz fest last year, Davidson performed with the Detroit Jazz Griots. In my review of the performance, which by the way I enjoyed. I lambasted Davidson for playing too loudly. The drummer seemed to be begging for attention. And I wrote at one point during the performance I wanted to snatch the drumstick out his hands.

Somehow Davidson got wind of the review. The only other person that confronted me about the review was jazz historian Jim Gallert who I have great respect for because of his prodigious knowledge and passion for jazz music. I’ve written for his website Detroitmusichistory.com, and I consider him a friend. I believe, however, that Gallert told Davidson about my review although I can’t prove it.
At bassist Don Mayberry’s album release gig last winter at the Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church, I ran into Gallert and his wife Dawn. He said what I wrote about Davidson was mean, and Davidson was one of Detroit’s great drummers. I didn’t respond to Gallert’s take on what I wrote. I don’t make it a habit of arguing the merits of what I write. I never saw the point of doing so. But I must admit that I feel compelled to write about my experience with Davidson to set the record straight.

Backstage was the first the time that I’d seen Davidson since that performance. He was gracious and a gentlemen. He said that he welcomes criticism. He knows some people don’t like his playing, adding there’re people who didn’t like Elvin Jones.
Because of what I wrote, he said he'd stopped playing loudly. I found it hard to believe he adjusted his playing because I criticized him. Davidson invited me to his performance with Cox the next day. I accepted, but didn't attend because Bettye LaVette was performing at the same time at the main stage.

Davidson left me backstage feeling badly. This was the second time a jazz musician confronted me. A few years ago, saxophonist Donald Walden cussed me out because of an article I wrote about drummer Roy Brooks. I hate how the whole situation went down. Before than Walden and I were friends. I could always count on him for information on some jazz musician I was writing about.

As for Davidson, I didn’t get a chance to give a complete picture of how I really feel about his playing. I’ve heard him on many occasions. I felt he was a solid drummer, particularly when he played at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge Wednesday nights with the late pianist Teddy Harris. And there was the night Davidson’s group Hip Bop performed wonderfully one night at Bert’ Marketplace. It was just his performance at the '06 Detroit jazz fest I did not like.
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