A flexible and diverse acoustic pianist who lives on the East Coast, Roger Davidson has a long history of playing both European classical music and straight-ahead bop (on top of being knowledgeable of various styles of Latin music, including Afro-Cuban salsa, Argentinean tango, and Brazilian samba). As a jazz improviser, Davidson has favored a very lyrical and melodic approach. Bill Evans (the pianist, not the saxman) is a major influence, and Davidson's jazz playing also brings to mind pianists like Red Garland, Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly, and Tommy Flanagan; in other words, the more accessible bebop and hard bop pianists of the 1950s and '60s who swung passionately but brought a strong sense of melody and lyricism to the table. Although Davidson's classical training comes through when he is playing straight-ahead jazz, he has no problem swinging or improvising; Davidson is able to compartmentalize, improvising spontaneously in a jazz setting and faithfully sticking to what is written in a Euro-classical setting.
Born in Paris in 1952 to a French mother and an American father, Davidson moved to New York City when he was a baby and has spent most of his life in the northeastern part of the United States. The '70s found the pianist earning a master's degree in composition from Boston University and a master's in choral conducting from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. After that, Davidson spent some time in Germany (where he studied voice at the Lichtenberger Institute) but returned to the northeastern U.S. and once again lived in Boston (where his activities ranged from directing a chamber orchestra to composing religious choral music). His interest in jazz was strong, however, and one of the people who encouraged that interest was the late producer Helen Keane (who was best-known for managing and producing Davidson's idol, Bill Evans). In the late '80s, Keane produced an album-length jazz demo cassette for Davidson, although she didn't live long enough to produce an official album for him. Nonetheless, Davidson went on to record some jazz albums that were released commercially, including the Latin-influenced Mango Tango. Between 2002 and 2004 Davidson recorded jazz for the independent Soundbrush label; his Soundbrush dates during that period included Ancient Voyage and Rodgers in Rio (an album of Brazilian jazz arrangements of standards by the famous Tin Pan Alley composer Richard Rodgers). Soundbrush was also where, in 2002, Davidson and Argentinean bassist Pablo Aslan (of Avantango fame) teamed up as the Tango Project and produced a tango-minded CD titled Amor por el Tango (Love for the Tango). ~ Alex Henderson