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Bassist Art Davis Dies at 73

After suffering a heart attack, double bassist Art Davis died at the age of 73 at his home in Long Beach, Calif. on July 29. Davis rose to prominence in the 1950s working with Dizzy Gillespie and the late Max Roach, and by the 1960s he had teamed up with John Coltrane, appearing on several of the saxophonist’s recordings. A versatile musician who performed in classical orchestras and Broadway shows as well as jazz outfits, Davis played with such varied acts as Bob Dylan, Judy Garland and Minnie Pearl. He long argued that he had been denied positions in top orchestras because he was black, and in the early 1970s Davis unsuccessfully sued the New York Philharmonic for discrimination.

His musical studies began at age 5 when he started playing piano, later taking up the tuba and then string bass when he was 16. Davis studied at the Juilliard and Manhattan schools of music, and graduated from New York’s Hunter College in 1973. He later drifted away from music to study psychology, earning master’s degrees from the City University of New York and New York University, and then his Ph.D. from NYU in 1982.

After a decade away from the instrument, Dr. Davis took up bass again in the mid-1980s and moved to California, practicing clinical psychology while reviving his musical career. He then toured, recorded, taught bass at several colleges, led his own jazz combos, and worked to establish music scholarships for underprivileged students.

Dr. Davis is survived by two sons and a daughter. His wife, Gladys, passed away in 1995.

Originally Published