‘Wild’ Bill Davison (January 5, 1906, Defiance, Ohio – November 14, 1989, Santa Barbara, California) was an American jazz cornet player. He emerged in the 1920s through his association with Muggsy Spanier and Frank Teschemacher in a cover band where they played the music of Louis Armstrong, but he did not achieve recognition until the 1940s. He is best remembered for his association with bandleader Eddie Condon, with whom he worked and recorded from the mid-1940s through the 1960s. Born William Edward Davison, his nickname “Wild Bill” reflected a reputation for heavy drinking and womanizing.
The poet Philip Larkin, a fan, described his playing thus:
“…a player of notable energy, he uses a wide range of conscious tonal distortions, heavy vibrato, and an urgent, bustling attack. At slow tempos he is melting, almost articulate. Humphrey Lyttelton has compared him with the kind of reveler who throws his arm round your neck one moment and tries to knock you down the next.”
“All the same, his stylistic mannerisms-the deep hoarse blurrings, the athletic in-front-of-the-beat timing, the flaring shakes-are highly conscious (the ‘Wild’ is more a personal than a musical sobriquet), and, imposed as they are on a conventional Armstrong basis, make Davison one of the most exciting of white small-band cornetists. His sessions with Sidney Bechet for Blue Note are collisions of two furious jazz talents which at the same time were oddly sympathetic, and prove his ability to play in any kind of milieu; his numerous sides in the Condon tradition show him uniting with (Pee Wee) Russell in the same way. But solo after solo demonstrates that he is not a ‘wild’ player: each note is perfectly shaped and pitched as if the cornet were his speaking voice, in the style of his favorites (Louis) Armstrong and (Bobby) Hackett, and with an emotional immediacy always hard to parallel.”
Richard M. Sudhalter described first seeing Wild Bill at Eddie Condon’s club in New York City in the 1950s:
“Up there, incredibly, is Bill Davison himself, looking like anything *but* the standard image of the cornet or trumpet player. Not like Louis Armstrong, horn tilted up and eyes rolled back as the tone takes flight; not like Maxie Kaminsky, so tiny that his instrument seems gigantic in his hands. Not like Bix Beiderbecke, in some old photo or other, dented cornet pointed resolutely to the floor.
“Nope. This guy is seated, one leg crossed casually over the other, drink on an upended barrel in front of him. He sweeps the cornet into the side of his mouth to expel some supercharged phrase, then jerks it away as if it’s too hot to keep there. And I realize, awe-struck, he’s chewing *gum*! Where in the world does he *keep* that stuff when he’s blowing?
“In short, he looked just the way he sounded – like a guy from Ohio (a town named, aptly, Defiance) with a fierce, uninhibited way of attacking the beat, driving a band of whatever size halfway into tomorrow. The music comes out as from a flame-thrower, but with a density and momentum only suggested by even the best (of his) records” (wikipedia)
There are hundreds of recordings with Wild Bill Davison from his tours in Europe, mostly from ´the60s up to the 80´s. Only one track in a trumpet compilation shows Wild Bill in his absolutely prime coming from 1958 when he made a session with The Feetwarmers in Hamburg. He shows a tremendous drive on that session and that also goes for another session with The Spree City Stompers which you can find on the the other side of the same LP which once upon a time was issued on Geman Polydor/Brunswick and there is also another LP on Ariola-label (“Spree Coast Jazz”). But even better is a LP on Austrian Columbia from the same tour with The Tremble Kids where trumpet man Oscar Klein changes to the guitar on many tracks which creates a real Eddie Condon feeling. An absolutely marvelous session.
The year before Wild Bill Davison also recorded with The Spree City Stompers in Berlin and this CDR shows that Mr. Davison is not only a nice, funny peronality but also one of the true trumpet greats in the history of jazz. This single session from the RIGHT years is far more important than most of the other European sessions the years to come. “Jazz aus der Eierschale” is my favorite buy 2012 and I really wish that everything with Wild Bill Davison in Europe 1957/58 will be aviable on CD before my ears fall off. (Leif Hallin)
Wild Bill Davison (cornet)
Werner Geisler (trumpet)
Harald Müller (bass)
Thomas Keck (drums)
Poldi Klein (clarinet)
Eckhard Schmidt (piano)
Hans-Wolf Schneider (trombone)
01. Pagan Love Song (Freed/Brown) 3.46
02. Royal Garden Blues (C.Williams/S.Williams) 3.43
03. Struttin‘ With Some Barbecue (Armstrong) 4.30
04. I Want A Big Butter And Egg Man (Friend/Santly/Clare) 3.44
05. After You’ve Gone (Creamer/Layton) 5.21
06. Blues In The Egg Shell (unbekannt) 4.10
07. When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) (Goodwin/Shay/Fisher) 4.09
08. ’s Wonderful (Gershwin) 2.44
09. Sweet Sue, Just You (Harris/Young) 2.22
10. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South (Muse/L.Rene/O.Rene) 3.45
11. If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight (Creamer/Johnson) 2.56
12. Ol‘ Man River (Hammerstein II/Kern) 3.18