Xavier Davis: Dance of Life

After playing extensively with the late Betty Carter, Tom Harrell, and Carl Allen, pianist Xavier Davis finally gets the spotlight with his engaging debut, Dance of Life. Davis crafts a warm, orchestral feel to his playing which imbues classic material like Cole Porter’s “I Love You” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” with a sensual musicality. His rhythmic gaiety and harmonic density faintly recall McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, and Tommy Flanagan, but his playing is indeed marked with the sensibilities of his generation, as evident by the strutting take on Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.”

With tenor saxophonist Don Braden, bassist Dwayne Burno, and drummer (and producer) Carl Allen, the music exudes a mature, nonchalant ease and cozy empathy that make this humble collection of mostly classics a rewarding listen. Although Davis doesn’t offer but two originals, the blistering title track and bluesy mid-tempo “The Plan Unknown” indicates the pianist is a burgeoning composer as well.