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Bass World Magazine Title
The Story Behind The Picture

Bob Daugherty is not only a master luthier, he's also an accomplished photographer who has chronicled, on 35 millimeter black and white film, the careers of many of the jazz greats he knew during his time as a jazz and studio bassist in New York City and Los Angeles.
We welcome Bob and his new column to Bass World.
(2007, Volume 31, Number 1)

Nights at The Village VanguardRichard Davis b&w photo

Along Seventh Avenue, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, an awning hangs over the sidewalk which reads, The Village Vanguard. The front door opens onto a stairway which leads to the basement club below. To enter is to find surprise and wonder: murals of jazz greats line the walls and a who’s who of jazz players can be heard nightly.

On a visit to New York, when I was perhaps twenty-four, I went to hear the band of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis at The Village Vanguard. They were a Monday night fixture throughout the 1960s. That evening, I arrived early; I stood near the bar at the back of the club. Nearby, the owner, Max Gordon was greeting the musicians as they came in. They made their way through the maze of small tables to the stage at the far end of the room. The stage seemed to be lit only by the glow from the lights on the music stands.

When all the players had arrived and were in their places, they began the first tune. The sound of the band was breathtaking; the music filled the room. These were some of the best freelance musicians in New York. The original pieces written by Thad Jones were joyous, whimsical, and spirited. It was a truly great jazz band. Mainly, my attention was focused on the bassist, Richard Davis. He was playing a lion’s head bass, the first I’d ever seen. He was standing off to the side of the small stage, seemingly wedged between the grand piano and the drums. His playing anchored the swirling surge of the music: his time was solid, his intonation was right-on, and his blend with the ensembles was a perfect match. Moreover, he delivered his highly unique style with a seemingly perpetual smile. For that matter, the whole band seemed to be having a really good time. Back by the bar, I was thinking, “If I could ever get the chance to be up there playing like that,” not for a moment believing that it would ever be possible.

Some years later, after I had moved to New York, I did begin to get calls to play on Monday nights with Thad and Mel at The Village Vanguard. Following in Richard’s footsteps was a bit daunting at first, but after getting over my initial jitters, I had a lot of fun. I must have been wearing a smile as well.

During the first week of January in 1972, the band was recording at Phil Ramone’s A&R Studios on Seventh Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. On the day before the session, I subbed for Richard at a rehearsal. I asked if I could come back the following day to take photographs. That was the day that this photo of Richard was taken. The album was to be called, “Suite for Pops.”

Looking back to those nights when I was playing at The Village Vanguard, I recall one evening when a young man introduced himself to me saying that he was a bass player from St. Louis. I told him that I was also from St. Louis. The parallel with my experience years before was not lost on me. I wondered if he would leave that evening feeling as inspired as I had on my first visit to The Village Vanguard.

Copyright 2007 International Society of Bassists
2007, Volume 31, Number 1
pg. 7


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