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Homage to Diversity by Richard Davis

Richard Davis’ curiously titled "Homage to Diversity" is a beautiful and melodious sequence of tunes that are rooted in the blues, bebop, gospel, classical and swing. The diversity of sources reveals similar core truths of simplicity and dignity. The pieces sound majestic and soulful, noble and passionate. Almost like an extended sonata. Davis could be playing eighteenth century, European court music and still convey a sense of the blues. Likewise, he proves the point on this album that pieces composed by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker and others are truly classical pieces and be recognized as such.

Davis plays the bass, both plucked and bowed, with extraordinary authority, and John Hicks caresses the piano. They are a harmonious match: Davis plays with a soft growl while Hicks sounds crystal clear like water cascading down a cliff.

The homage begins with Ellington’s elegant "Come Sunday/Warm Valley" and drifts seamlessly into Frank Foster’s beautiful "Simone" followed by Bruno Martino’s graceful dance, "Estate."

Strayhorn’s "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" stands out above the rest. It is soft and delicate, but also played with ironic sadness. It might be an aural portrait of Strayhorn who had to survive being an openly gay person during a predominantly closeted period. "Flower" is a remarkable interpretation of a classic composition.

Davis then places the classical "Eccles Sonata" alongside of traditional gospel tunes ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "Go Down, Moses" played as a solemn solo by Davis. A triad of the eternal blues.

Ending the album, Davis changes the mood significantly. He uses Charlie Parker’s cheerfully dissonant "Little Benny" and the crusty and vibrant "C.C. Rider" as bookends to Hoagy Carmichael’s gorgeously wistful "Skylark."

One would think that "diversity" in the album title would refer to the range of sources interpreted by Davis and Hicks. Indeed, Davis' liner notes suggest something far more expansive. And, by the way, I had no idea that Beethoven was black.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Richard Davis
  • CD Title: Homage to Diversity
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Palmetto records
  • Tracks: Come Sunday/Warm Valley, Simone, Estate (Summer), A Flower is a Lovesome Thing, Eccles Sonata, Life Every Voice and Sing, Go Down Moses, Little Benny, Skylark, C.C. Rider
  • Musicians: Richard Davis (bass, vocals), John Hicks (piano)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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