Trumpeter and teacher Stanton Davis, Jr., originally from New Orleans, studied at the Berklee Collge of Music, New England Conservatory and Wesleyan University. As a teacher, he has taught at the New England Conservatory, Wellesley College, Bennington College and Jazzmobile. As a performer, he has been a member of Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, Mongo Santamaria's Orchestra and Mario Bauza & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. Davis has also worked with artists like Muhal Richard Abrams, Jaki Byard, Gil Evans, Charlie Haden, George Gruntz, James Moody, Sam Rivers, Max Roach and David Sanborn. A large portion of Davis' career has been studying and working with George Russell.
Brighter Days was Davis' first recording, originally released in 1977 on the small Outrageous Records label of Somerville, Massachusetts. This release is now available for the first time on CD. Davis released his only other recording as a leader, Manhattan Melody, a decade later on Enja Records.
Truly a product of the times, this recording immediately makes one think of some of the work Donald Byrd was doing in the 1970s. Back when the term fusion was an exciting way to think of music, constructions like this were highly prized. Incorporating voices rather raw R&B funk rhythms, emerging urban percussion and groove oriented musical backbeats and popular styled melodic hooks, the stew of these elements created a rich foundation upon which Davis and his cohorts were able to lay down some funky lines.
There are many highlights. The odd-meter flow of "Play Sleep" is constructed in such a way as to give keyboardist Alan Pasqua a great amount of solo space. His kaleidoscopic runs and harmonic stylings fit perfectly into the groove. The ostinato of the vocal melody on "Funky Fried Tofu" opens up into some great overdubbed trumpet accentuations from Davis. Dr. Leonard Brown's best saxophone work on the recording appears on this track. He is able to not just get inside the rhythm, but also open up some nice counter rhythmic currents during his angular lines.
It is, however, "Things Cannot Stop Forever" that reminds one the most of Donald Byrd's work of this time. With Earth, Wind & Fire-styled background rhythms, Davis and company are firmly locked into some deep-seated jazz-inflected funk. The lovely ballad "Nida," on the other hand, predates work Herb Alpert would do with tunes like 1979's "Rise." With bells and very tantalizing bass work by Jerry Harris, the atmospherics fully surround Davis' warm and pure tonal lines.
This disc is a wonderful remembrance of times past, when it was okay to not be locked into a genre and when radio was much more open in accepting of musical variety. It's a shame there isn't more music recorded like this today. It's about time this album got its overdue respect and CD treatment reissue.