Renowned jazz saxophonist who cut some ancillary sessions in rock early in his career before taking the rougher rock-edged sound back into the jazz world full-time on his way to widespread acclaim.

Davis was born in 1922 in New York and though he was self-taught he was a fast learner as he began playing professionally eight months after first picking up the instrument. He took on a regular gig at Clark Monroe’s Uptown Club in Harlem while still in his teens during the late 1930’s and by the 1940’s was playing with such luminaries as Lucky Millinder and Andy Kirk but made his early reputation with Cootie Williams’ band.

Davis cut his own sides as leader starting in 1946 and took the nickname Lockjaw after the title of one of those records, all of which were fairly typical jazz for the day. But during a stint with Lenox Records in 1948 he began exploring a much more dynamic and gutsier sound, some of which were far more at home in rock and it appeared he might be making a move to that field like many other sax players of the era.

This seemed even more likely when he worked alongside his brother, Carl, also known as Chicago Davis (though he wasn’t from Chicago) and King Karl, cutting sides together for Savoy in 1949 with Eddie in a supporting role, all of which were firmly within the rock parameters. Eddie’s own output during that year included two sides for King Records that contained a little bit of everything, rock included, but clearly didn’t belong to any one genre alone.

In spite of the fact that rock was leading the charge for the role of the tenor sax in music commercially with hit after hit of loud, booting saxes stirring up a storm, all of which suited Davis’s playing style, he moved back into jazz more or less permanently after this, although bringing with him components of the tougher more aggressive rock sound to whatever he did. He worked on and off with Count Basie’s band starting in 1952 and his solo stints throughout the 1950’s and 60’s often featured organists who had serious rock connections – Bill Doggett in the early 1950’s before he became a full-fledged rock act himself, and later Doc Bagby who had been heavily associated with rock in the late 1940’s and early 50’s on Gotham Records. Davis later made acclaimed records with another – non-rock oriented – organist, Shirley Scott.

That’s where Davis would remain situated for the rest of his career, a jazz musician, for even though he’d shown an aptitude for rock early on he never really explored it again. But as a jazz artist he was utterly unique, for there were few sax players to match his harder-edged dynamic presence and because of that he was able to carve out a role in jazz which had few rivals. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis would remain a revered player in the field until his death in 1986.

EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Lenox 502; August, 1948)
A solid debut in the rock field for someone reared in jazz, showing the appropriate grit and intensity even if the other musicians need to be convinced of the direction and the song is lacking a memorable riff or an explosive climax to make it truly stand out. (5)

(Lenox 515; November, 1948)
A tight arrangement with handclaps setting up Davis’s extended solo which is played with a combination of fierce determination and casual confidence shows that he had no problem adapting to the rock aesthetic. (6)

(Regent 1011; January, 1950)
As sideman to King Karl… Eddie provides some stellar support for his brother, delivering a rousing sax solo that keeps up the spirit of this modestly fun and energetic song. (5)