With his latest Newport Classic recording, Halley’s Comet: Around the Piano with Mark Twain & John Davis, pianist John Davis pays musical tribute to our country’s most celebrated and influential author whose career, like Davis’, lies at the intersection of white and black culture and high and low culture in American society. The Twain-related works included on the CD, “played powerfully and with a rich palette” according to The New York Times, further Davis’ effort to define, excavate, and disseminate a previously-unacknowledged American roots music initiated by two earlier hit recordings on Newport Classic. John Davis Plays Blind Tom, featuring piano works of the Georgia slave pianist, Thomas Wiggins, became a top-ten seller in classical music at Tower Records and Amazon.com, and, in the opinion of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “singlehandedly revived the lost legacy of Wiggins.” Marshfield Tornado: John Davis Plays Blind Boone, highlighting music of John William Boone, a sightless pianist from Missouri who modeled his career on Blind Tom’s, has been a repeat #1 record on the “Ragtime” chart at Amazon.com, and was singled out by Gramophone, the esteemed British music publication, for “turning the prehistory of jazz and blues into the living history of one remarkable man.” “In John Davis’ hands,” reports Living Blues, the world’s premier blues magazine, Boone’s piano works become “more than artifacts—they live, with an immediacy that cannot be denied.”
Davis’ instrumental mastery, cultivated at The Juilliard School and Brown University, and his lifelong immersion in African-American music, literature, and folklore, lie at the core of his cutting-edge career as performer, recording artist, author, and collector. His grassroots pursuit of forgotten black culture has led him to remote corners of the United States and to amass a personal archive of rare 19th- and early 20th-century printed African Americana that is the source for many of the ideas and materials that have filtered into his concerts, recordings, and writings. Davis’ recent appearances at Strathmore, The Gilmore Keyboard Festival, Joe’s Pub, Le Poisson Rouge, and other important classical, jazz, and roots music venues across the United States, marked the listening public’s first exposure to countless piano works not heard since the lifetime of their composers who, both white and black, had been missing links on the continuum of American music.
© John Davis 2012