Socialist Worker

If - Nathan Davis

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2146

The sleeve of If

The sleeve of If

At the close of the 1960s, saxophonist Nathan Davis was making records in praise of the civil rights movement and in opposition to war – from the relatively safe distance of France.

Though highly sought after by legendary artists like Art Blakey, Davis had for many years decided to abandon fame for a life of relative obscurity.

In an apparent rejection of the US and big money record deals, he joined a long line of African‑Americans who found a greater appreciation in Europe for their art and an acceptance of their race.

When Davis returned to the US in 1969, it was to become the director of Jazz Studies at the universtiy of Pittsburgh.

His made the album If in 1976. Though influenced by the mid‑1960s style of John Coltrane, and Davis’s studies in musical anthropology in Paris, its real aim was to fuse jazz with funk.

Despite continuing to make great music, Davis’s rejection of the mainstream music industry meant that most of his best work was only ever released on minor labels. As such, it has been unavailable to all but the wealthiest of collectors – until now.

Nathan Davis

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Tue 7 Apr 2009, 19:04 BST
Issue No. 2146
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