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Steve Davis ('89)

Associate Faculty in Music (Jazz)
Bachelor of Music, Jazz Studies-Trombone 

Why I Chose Hartt

When it comes to The Hartt School, I believe I have a unique perspective in that not only have I been on faculty at The Hartt School since 1991, but I was an undergraduate student from 1985-89 . I was a young twenty four year-old when Dr. Jackie McLean convinced the school to hire me as an adjunct-faculty member... a teacher, yes. But truly, I was an apprentice of Professor McLean. During the eighteen years since, I have grown along with our talented students and fellow faculty as not only a musician, teacher and mentor, but as a husband, parent, friend and human-being. 

I still remember visiting Hartt on the U of H Campus for the first time in the fall,1984. The leaves were turning and everything looked beautiful. Then, there was my audition in Feb 1985. This is when I first met Dr. Jackie McLean. After a cordial greeting, I played for Professor McLean an unaccompanied version of Gershwin's "Summertime". He expressed some enthusiasm, quickly sat down at the piano and began playing some very exotic, hip chords. Then he said, "OK son. Let's see what you can do with these. Go on and play some." I was in a room that morning with THE Jackie McLean - J Mac... playing over some of HIS chord changes! Although I had no idea what they were, they still made some kind of sense to me. He then sang something back that I had played that sounded half-way decent and proclaimed, "Yeah, son. You've got all the stuff happening. Where's your mother? We need to go and have a talk with mom!". Before we left the room, Mr. McLean noticed I had been looking at what I thought was the rather impressive skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut. He pointed out the window and said, "I know. It's a cow pasture. It's not New York, but there's alot happening here at the University and in the city of Hartford. We have the Artist's Collective, too. I think you'd do very well here for four years.". He then asked would I like to study with Curtis Fuller (the great jazz trombone legend)? Curtis Fuller AND Jackie McLean?! That was it. My mind was made-up right then and there. But, there was more. When Professor McLean spoke with my mother, they agreed that although Hartt was a terrific, competitive music school, another big advantage of choosing Hartt was the fact that you had an entire campus - a university full of academic and social possibilities. This, along with the obvious fact that Professor McLean was not only The REAL DEAL, but was dedicated to nurturing and looking out for his students is what sold my mother - and me. Besides, NYC and Boston were just a two-hour trip away.

The decision to attend Hartt back then changed my life and set me on the course I am still following today. I have met so many great musicians, interesting people, talented students at Hartt. I have made friends for life here. I met my wife Mary DiPaola-Davis here at Hartt! We now are raising three beautiful children here in the Greater Hartford area. Although I have traveled and performed around the world, Hartford, Connecticut is my home. My family is my anchor. The Hartt family continues to be part of that anchor, as well. I couldn't imagine things any differently. It is a privilege and an honor to come to Hartt everyday, following in the footsteps of great men of music like Moshe Paranov, Al Lepak and Jackie McLean, to work on music with talented, hungry students - like I once was. The students keep me motivated and practicing... they keep me hungry to be a better musician everyday! Other than playing music, I truly couldn't think of a better job than to teach music at The Hartt School.

More about Steve

Steve Davis is widely regarded as one of today's leading improvisers on the trombone. His lyrical, hard-swinging style first gained him broad recognition during the 1990's while working with the bands of jazz legends Art Blakey, Jackie McLean, Chick Corea's Origin and the cooperative sextet, One For All. Steve has appeared in Downbeat Magazine's Reader's and Critic's Polls numerous times, winning the TDWR (Rising Star) Trombone Category in 1998.

In fall 2008, Davis released OUTLOOK (Positone Records) featuring his exciting, new quintet. He also followed in his mentor Curtis Fuller's footsteps by joining saxophone legend Benny Golson and The New Jazztet. In addition, Steve collaborated with all-time great pianist Hank Jones on a brand new CD, ELOQUENCE, set for release Fall 2009 (Jazz Legacy Productions). Along with Davis and Jones, the stellar line-up includes Nat Reeves (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums) and special guests Steve Nelson (vibes), Roy Hargrove (trumpet) and John Lee (electric bass).

Born in Worcester, MA in 1967, Steve was raised in Binghamton, New York and graduated in 1989 from The Hartt School's Jackie McLean Institute (University of Hartford, CT). It was McLean's guidance and recommendation that helped Davis land his first major gig with Art Blakey in NYC in Dec 1989. Steve returned to Hartford in 1992 to join McLean's sextet and begin teaching alongside his mentor at both The Hartt School and Artist's Collective. Davis has resided in Hartford ever since.

In recent years, Steve has been leading his own bands with more frequency including an all-star quartet featuring renowned pianist Larry Willis (Alone Together/Mapleshade 2006) and an exciting, new quintet featuring rising stars Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), David Bryant (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums). The band is featured on Davis' new OUTLOOK CD.

Steve also continues to perform and record with the well-known, collective unit One For All (feat. Eric Alexander, Jim Rotondi, David Hazeltine, John Webber and Joe Farnsworth). The band has recorded 12 CD's since 1997 for Sharp Nine, Criss Cross and Venus/Japan. Both their recordings and live performances have garnered rave reviews. In 2007, Second Floor Music began publishing One For All sextet charts in two sets, as recorded on the group's first two CD's, "Too Soon To Tell" (1997) and "Optimism" (1998) for Sharp Nine Records.

Ever in-demand as a sideman, Davis is featured on over 100 recordings. In recent years, "Stevie-D" (a nickname given to him by the late Jackie McLean) has worked regularly with a broad range of jazz icons including Larry Willis' Quintet, Freddie Hubbard and The New Jazz Composers Octet, Slide Hampton and The Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band (feat. James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Roy Hargrove), The Jimmy Heath Big Band, Cecil Payne, Horace Silver and Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Davis continues to lead an active teaching career at The Hartt School's Jackie McLean Institute (University of Hartford) where he has been on faculty since 1991 and now teaches alongside Nat Reeves, Rene McLean, Eric McPherson, Shawnn Montiero, and others.

Steve also continues his long-time affiliation with the Artist`s Collective (founded by Jackie and Dollie McLean) in Hartford, Connecticut where he makes his home (in West Hartford) with his wife, pianist/educator Mary DiPaola-Davis and children Tony, Angie and Nicky.

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