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Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With his cutting, throaty tone and hard-swinging style, tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis straddled the big-band, bebop, R&B, and soul-jazz eras. Although known as one of the great jazz pugilists, ably holding his own at jam sessions and on record, it was his effusive approach to jazz and blues that he brought to new heights with Hammond B-3 organist Shirley Scott. Together, they released a string of albums in the late-'50s, including In the Kitchen, Cookbook, Vol. 1, and Jaws, that were the paradigm of the soul-jazz organ group sound. Davis was also a vital member of the Count Basie group, recording from the '50s into the early '70s and appearing on numerous albums. He also led hard-charging dates with saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Johnny Griffin, and trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, and was a busy soloist right up until his passing in the 1980s. Born Edward F. Davis in 1922 in New York City, Davis was largely self-taught on the tenor saxophone. He came up in the 1930's in Harlem, playing with artists like Cootie Williams, Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, and Louis Armstrong. He regularly played at Minton's Jazz Club in the '40s and led his own group, Eddie Davis and His Beboppers, featuring Fats Navarro, Al Haig, Huey Long, Gene Ramey, and Denzil Best. It was with this group, and several other small group configurations, that he made his recorded debut, releasing a series of burning, earthy sides for labels like Savoy, King, Lenox, and Royal Roost. By the '50s, he had started leading groups featuring organists, as on the early Roost LP Goodies from Eddie Davis, featuring Bill Doggett and Eddie Bonnemère. He also recorded with organist Jimmy Smith and formed a fruitful partnership with saxophonist Sonny Stitt, releasing a high energy 1955 concert album, Live at Birdland. However, it was his collaborative work with organist Shirley Scott that cemented his reputation. Together, they recorded a series of earthy, hard-driving albums that helped to popularize the bluesy, small group tenor and organ soul-jazz sound. Many of their albums had food-themes, beginning with 1958's In the Kitchen and running through Jaws, Cookbook, Vols. 1, 2, and 3, and ending with 1960's Misty. Also in 1960, he and Scott backed vocalist Mildred Anderson on , Davis was a key member of the Count Basie Big Band, debuting on 1955's The Count, and appearing on albums with the group into the early '70s. He soloed on such notable numbers as "Flight of the Foo Birds" and "After Supper" and played classic albums like The Atomic Mr. Basie, Sinatra at the Sands, Basie Straight Ahead, High Voltage, and more. Beginning in the '60s, he co-led a quintet with fellow tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, playing head-to-head on albums like Battle Stations, Griff & Lock, and the Tenor Scene. Both Davis and Griffin also performed together as part of the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band in Europe. Davis also collaborated on similarly vibrant dates with Harry "Sweets" Edison, Don Patterson, Paul Gonzalves, and others. More albums followed, including 1976's Straight Ahead with Tommy Flanagan, 1981's Jaws Blues with Horace Parlan, and 1983's All of Me with Kenny Drew. There were also further dates with Basie like Basie Jam, as well as sessions with Dizzy Gillespie, Richie Cole, and Milt Jackson, among others. Davis died November 3, 1986 of Hodgkin's lymphoma in Culver City, California, at the age of 64. In the decades following his death, a bevy of live albums, like 2019's Ow! Live at the Penthouse with Johnny Griffin and the 2023 anthology Cookin' with Jaws and the Queen: The Legendary Prestige Cookbook Albums, helped keep his legacy as a supremely charismatic soloist and architect of the soul-jazz organ sound alive.
© Matt Collar /TiVo

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