Eddie Lockjaw Davis was one musician who provided a link from the big band era through to the soul jazz phenomenon of the late 1950′s and early 1960′s. Davis developed one of the most unmistakable tenor sax sounds in post war jazz, with a full bodied yet reedy tone that was equally at home in rhythm & blues settings as more modern contexts. His playing always had a direct, singing quality that was a huge influence on the next generation of sax men.
Jaws was a blustery soloist who came to prominence in the world of Jazz at a time when you had to “make your bones” by engaging in “cutting” sessions with other tenor saxophonists. Such “duels” might include only another tenor sax player, or perhaps two others or even a stage full of them; some were known to go on all night, ending in the wee small hours of the morning. The creative sparks flew when tenor saxophones engaged in such battles, and Eddie “Lockjaws”Davis was often tested, but rarely bested in these competitions.
Davis’ playing style showed him to be at ease on both gutsy, hard-driving swingers and slow, tender ballads. The former are most evident in his partnership with Griffin and his showstoppers with Basie, while the softer facet of his musical character came to the fore on a fine album of ballads he made with Paul Gonsalves. Davis always confounded critics. Because he was an acknowledged star to the soul-jazz idiom, they expected him to create in a somewhat formulaic setting, taking few chances. Jaws always took chances, and he always did things his way.
Whether he was playing the blues or a ballad, Jaws spun solos of flat-out exuberance and exhilaration. His sound was always inimitable and accomplished. Eddie Lockjaw Davis was a hard hitting tenor player from the old school, and his legacy survives in his vast and prestigious recordings and memorable live performances when he would dominate the stage.