WATERLOO ON., NOV. 13, 2014 — The musical journey that brings alto-sax sensation Tara Davidson to the stage of The Jazz Room started decades ago with trips the legendary Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village.
“My dad took us to New York a lot,” Davidson says. “Lucky us, for sure.”
Davidson is a leading alto-sax player, composer, recording artist, educator and performer. The Juno-nominated performer and composer plays The Jazz Room on Saturday in a show that will feature compositions from her latest CD, Tara Davidson Duets. But it all started with the influence of her dad, Ron Davidson, a trumpet player who headed a high school music department.
“We would go to the Village Vanguard and hear people, I was really young,” Davidson says. “He always tells the story how I fell asleep on the table after he stayed all night to hear Illinois Jacquet.”
Jacquet was a tenor sax player and jazz musician best known for his solo on “Flying Home.” Davidson also heard Dizzy Gillespie at Carnegie Hall when she was young.
“I remember that,” Davidson says. “I knew that was special and how amazing he was.”
She still makes regular trips to the famous club on 7th Avenue in New York City to hear jazz, and take private lessons with Dick Oatts, the lead alto-sax player in the Village Vanguard Orchestra. Oatts taught at the Manhattan School of Music for years, and is now at Temple University in Philedelphia.
Davidson’s dad helped her pick her insturment when she was 12. To this day, he seldom misses a show.
“He brought a bunch of woodwind instruments home for me to try, and I liked the saxophone best,” she says.
Davidson released her latest CD at the Jazz Bistro in Toronto a few weeks ago. It is a duets project with 13 tracks featuring six different duet partners
“All of whom I love playing with, I have personal and musical relationships with these people, which is why I asked them to join me on this record,” Davidson says.
The CD features compositions by Davidson and one by each of her duet partners. For the Saturday gig in The Jazz Room, three of the duet partners will join Davidson on stage — Mike Murley on tenor sax, Andrew Downing on bass and cello and Andrew Occiphinti on guitar. They will also play trio and quartet configurations.
“Just to sort of give variety through the night,” Davidson says.
The duets project follows Davidson’s release of CDs featuring her quartet, quintet and nonet, so she was looking to do something different.
“I wanted to choose something I would be happy focusing on, and I really love playing duets,” Davidson says. “I often get together with other singular musicians to learn tunes, and when I studied with Murley a lot of my study time was playing duets with him actually. So I really like it.”
Davidson, 35, has released several CDs as band leader, and many more as a side player. She is married to the trombone player William Carn, and they co-lead a nine-piece band. They travel regularly to New York City to hear jazz.
Davidson studied jazz at the University of Toronto, 1998 to 2002, under Mike Murley, considered one of the best, if not the top tenor sax player on the Toronto scene.
“At the time he was one of the private teaches there, and I wanted to study with him some more there,” Davidson says.
She also studied under Phil Nimmons, who was about 70 when she attended the University of Toronto.
“He was an amazing, vibrant, intelligent, great man,” Davidson says. “And he would speak of the fact that as a musician one of the most beautiful things about being a musician is that you can always grow and get better. And the pursuit of that is exceptional and beautiful.”
She loves to teach as well. In the jazz program at York University, and at Humber College, in the community school music program that is held every Saturday. Davidson teaches a lot of young people 11 to 15 in the program, conducting them in small combos and private lessons.