Jesse Ed Davis
Jesse Ed Davis
It was with Mahal where Davis was able to showcase his skill and range, playing slide, lead and rhythm, country and even jazz during his three-year stint, (and writing the graceful calligraphy for "Giant Step" 's liner-notes), making a celebrated appearance with the band as a musical guest in the The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. During this performance, Jesse Ed Davis was playing with such passion and finesse throughout the set that afterwards in the audience you can see a smiling Davis sitting beside John Lennon and Yoko Ono taking in the rest of the show. Davis went on to work closely with Lennon in the future featuring as guitarist on a few of his albums, amongst many others. The period backing Mahal was the closest Davis came to being in a band full-time, and after Taj's 1969 album Giant Step, Davis soon made a reputation for sterling session work for such diverse acts as David Cassidy, Albert King and Willie Nelson. In 1971, Davis produced and played on Gene Clark's classic second solo album, White Light, which came to be known as the Gene Clark album because the record label, A&M records, did not want to deal with any accusation concerning drugs' apology; "White Line" gives a clue of what the record label A&M, even though it has always been known as an 'artie' label, wanted to prevent.
Although the record didn't do well on the US charts, the critics acclaimed that the record was a fine folk album, well produced by Davis. Furthermore, Davis' guitars were crucial for the sound of the songs in such a way that his electric guitar harmonies were what followed Gene Clark's fine vocals throughout the album. For instance, the cover version of the until then bootleg Bob Dylan Song, "Tears of Rage", showed that Jesse was on into the sound of what he was producing. During the party-days of 1971 in L.A.
Jesse finally recorded his first solo album when the subsidiary of Atlantic Records, Atco, signed a contract with him to record two albums with the label. The result of that engagenment was the self-titled album Jesse Davis (Atco, 1971), which featured backing vocals by Gram Parsons and appearances by Leon Russell and Eric Clapton, among others. Moreover, the record is a good example of what it was to make a rock and roll album in those day: to call on a few friends, rent a studio in L.A. and keep on playing long after midnight sessions.
Two more solo LPs followed, Ululu (Atco, 1972) and Keep Me Comin,' occasionally listed as, Keep On Coming (CBS, 1973). Davis also added guitar to Clark's No Other album (Asylum, 1974). As a result of his talent and connections, Davis eventually played on a raft of albums of the 1970s, including LPs by John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leonard Cohen, Keith Moon, Jackson Browne, Steve Miller, Harry Nilsson and Van Dyke Parks, and was a featured guest in George Harrison's The Concert for Bangladesh on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden, New York City; he was scheduled to appear when it was uncertain that Eric Clapton would make it to the event, however, both Clapton and Davis performed. In and out of clinics, Davis disappeared from the music industry for a time, spending much of the 1980s dealing with alcohol and drug addiction. At the time of his death of an apparent drug overdose in a Venice, Los Angeles, California laundry room, Davis was playing in The Grafitti Band, which coupled his music with the poetry of American Indian activist John Trudell. Four months before Davis died, The Grafitti Band performed with Taj Mahal at the prestigious Palomino Club in Hollywood.
At this memorable show, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and John Fogerty rose from the audience to join Davis and Mahal in an unrehearsed set of rock standards which included Fogerty's "Proud Mary" and Dylan's "Watching The River Flow". On June 22, 1988 Jesse Ed Davis collapsed and was pronounced dead in a laundry in Venice, California. Jesse had various drugs in his system and his death is usually ruled as a heroin overdose, although, with the various drugs in his system it is more of a death by misadventure seeing he was in a laundry at the time of his passing. He was 43 years old. Read more on Last.fm.
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