Renowned jazz pianist joins ranks at MSU
For jazz professor Xavier Davis, music is "like food or air" — a natural part of life.
"I guess my passion for music started without me even realizing that it was a passion. It was just there," Davis said.
Davis — an Interlochen Arts Academy alumni and former Juilliard School instructor with two critically-acclaimed albums — has spent his life dedicated to music.
He has made his way to East Lansing this year, where he teaches private lessons as well as courses in jazz at MSU.
Davis said being raised by two musicians and growing up in a musical household strongly influenced his love of music.
"We listened to all different types of music, from classical to jazz to gospel to some more popular styles ... I learned to read music around the same time that I learned to read words, so as far back as I could remember, music was there," Davis said.
His father began teaching vocal jazz ensembles when Davis was young, and he took note of the close and interesting harmonies created by the people who arranged for his father's ensembles.
As a student at Interlochen, Davis roomed with a bass player from New York City, who had a large collection of jazz music constantly playing.
That was when Davis began to learn the fundamentals of jazz improvisation.
"I've been learning ever since," Davis said.
He has had a long and rewarding music career touring the world, and as head of the Xavier Davis Trio.
Davis joined the MSU Professors of Jazz and performed with the group for students and public alike Monday night in the Byron and Dolores Cook Recital Hall.
The group is a seven-piece ensemble featuring members of the jazz faculty in the College of Music.
The MSU Professors of Jazz is an important group because jazz is a social music, meant to be shared, Davis said.
"As musicians, we receive energy and inspiration from our colleagues and from listeners. What we play, as jazz musicians, is affected by how it's being received by the listener and what the players receive from the listener," Davis said.
Jazz studies senior Endea Owens said the Professors of Jazz is important to her personally, because the faculty is doing what the jazz studies students want to do in the future.
Jazz studies senior Mariela Versola said she enjoys the performance simply because it's an incredible display of musical talent.
Both students said the band members didn't always play as a group, so performances like this were rare chances to see them all together.