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Saturday, 17 October 2009

Maxwell Davis And His Tenor Sax

My thanks to the anonymous donor who has sent in some great instrumental albums and has supplied this 1980s re-issue (on the Official label) of a Maxwell Davis album which was first released on Aladdin in 1954.

The influence of Maxwell Davis as a tenor sax player, producer, arranger, bandleader and A&R man permeates many other posts on the blog, a prime example being the post on Percy Mayfield: “The Voice Within”, where most of the tracks were arranged and backed by Maxwell.

1956 12 inch release

This album was originally released in 1954 as a 10-inch LP with only 8 tracks. It was part of a series of Aladdin LPs with titles ending in “… and his Tenor Sax”, the other releases being by Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet and Lynn Hope. In 1956 a 12-inch edition containing 11 tracks was released. In 1957 this 11 track version was re-released on the Aladdin budget subsidiary Score with a new title – “Blue Tango” and a new cover featuring an attractive young lady pouting provocatively at the camera. I have included an illustration of that cover for purely educational purposes while thoroughly deploring the use of sexist imagery to sell records. You can find similarly regrettable illustrations on the Both Sides Now website, from which I stole this example.

Budget release on Score, 1957

For better or for worse, this extended 1980s reissue on the Official label restores the original artwork to the album. However, the lack of a seductive temptress on the sleeve is more than compensated for by the music contained within.

Maxwell Davis originally hailed from Independence, Kansas where he was born in 1916. By the age of twelve he was practising hard on the saxophone having already tried the violin and piano. A few years later he had formed his own group and at the age of seventeen earned a berth in the territory band of Gene Coy. In 1937 he moved to Los Angeles and began working with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra before forming a small group for club gigs. As the war came to an end, the Los Angeles R&B scene boomed and Maxwell worked as a freelance musician and arranger for the numerous record companies which were springing up on the West Coast.

In 1948 he signed a contract with Aladdin Records which within a year became the top selling R&B label in the country. The late 40s and early fifties were the great years for Aladdin with Maxwell Davis working alongside top stars such as Amos Milburn, Charles Brown, Floyd Dixon and Peppermint Harris. The sides on this LP were recorded between November 1951 and November 1953, all of them being released on singles except “Kiss Me Again.” Of the three LPs which I have posted from this series, this is probably the “poppiest”, but is still essential listening for tenor sax fans.

By 1954 Maxwell was working full time for Modern where he worked on many of the sides which brought success for the label as the rock and roll era took off. Among the artists he worked with were Etta James, B.B. King, Richard Berry, Marvin & Johnny, The Teen Queens, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Jesse Belvin. In the late sixties Maxwell was working on Modern’s re-activated Kent label, producing blues hits by Lowell Fulson, Z.Z. Hill and B.B. King. He was still working when he died of a heart attack in September 1970.
Most of the above information is from Ray Topping’s liner notes to the Ace LP “Father of West Coast R&B.”

Download from here:

Or from here:

Maxwell Davis And His Tenor Sax (Mega)

1. Blue Tango
2. Popsicle
3. Blue Shuffle
4. Glory Of Love
5. Hey, Good Lookin'
6. Joe Louis Story Theme
7. Gomain Nasai (Forgive Me)
8. Ooh!
9. Hey Boy
10. C'est Si Bon
11. Look Sharp
12. Strange Sensation
13. Kiss Me Again
14. Hot Point
15. No Other Love
16. Charmaine
Recommended purchase:
Wailin' Daddy: The Best Of Maxwell Davis (Fantastic Voyage FVTD130)

A 3CD collection compiled by Dave Penny for the Fantastic Voyage label. CD 1 has 30 tracks by Maxwell including some of the tracks on "Maxwell Davis And His Tenor Sax." The other 2 CDs are collections of 1940s and 1950s tracks he produced, arranged or played on as a sideman. Many obscure and little known gems are to be found here! The 20 page booklet has a biographical essay on Maxwell. Highly recommended.
Full review can be read here.


Anonymous said...

Superlative, as always.

Spent the last few hours listening to this and Illinois Jacquet. Made for a rockin' afternoon!

Thanks again - d.

boogiewoody said...

Sounds like a damned fine afternoon! 'Tis an honour to keep the rockin' nation a-movin' and a groovin'!


Danneau said...

Many thanks for the Maxwell Davis material. I get to clean out another corner of the ignorance closet.

apollojams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
boogiewoody said...

New link up. Thanks Apollojams, I'll keep going as long as I can, but it's getting more difficult these days!

apollojams said...

Thanx, BW. I, too, am quite aware of what's going down, but like i've been saying, we don't have to stop hanging out just because they cancel a couple of bus routes. Me and Maxwell are 'bout to go have-a-time. With a "Dominoes-post-Federal" chaser! Thanx for keepin' the bar so high and always open. Speaking of high standards, do you have more Jonas B's? That whole family of labels renders me speechless. Like your posts at BBW: the trax, the docu, the scans...just beautiful. I had SO many stolen [spent a fortune on them over the decades], and thanx to you, have so many BACK in my life. Still always hoping more will pop up, given time....

boogiewoody said...

Yes indeedy apollojams, I have quite a few more Jonas B's in the vinyl vault, so you never know ...

apollojams said...

That's such great news. I was afraid you had already posted all you had [so i didn't say anything, just grateful for what you HAD posted]. Thank you, cuz NO one is doing them! And if they do [one, here or there], never like this! As thorough as *i* would have done ,if ... i still had mine to share-back. What a tremendous catalog he created. With books like "Sound Of The City" and "Honkers & Shouters" inspiring me, having the actual tunes themselves just took my appreciation to a whole 'nother level. We've shared this info in previous comments: the whole early 80s reissue-compilation explosion brought to life what was merely dusty old text and "gee-wish-i-could-HEAR-this-stuff" sighs. Needless to say, i'll be looking forward to whatever else you got up your sleeve.