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Had Long Association With Count Basie : Jazz Saxophonist Eddie Davis Dies at 65

November 04, 1986

Eddie (Lockjaw) Davis, considered one of the most innovative and individual tenor saxophonists to ever play jazz, died Monday at a Culver City hospital of cancer.

He was 65 and had performed as recently as Sept. 14 at a tribute to pianist Jimmy Rowles.

Davis was self-taught, playing professionally in Harlem only eight months after buying his first saxophone. He played with Cootie Williams and Louis Armstrong, formed his own combo and then began a long association with Count Basie in 1952.

For the next two decades he toured and recorded with the Basie band while elsewhere accompanying Ella Fitzgerald or being featured in European concerts with the Jazz at the Philharmonic ensemble.

More recently he had a lengthy affiliation with Harry (Sweets) Edison, the trumpeter. The two toured the country for months at a time, picking up local side men to fill out their group.

Leonard Feather, The Times' jazz critic, wrote in 1981 that Edison and Davis "carry their arrangements in their heads" and cited the Basie backgrounds that both men shared as the reason for their seemingly facile performances with an ever-changing cast of musicians.

"The Count Basie band was a virtual school for soloists (and) the two leaders are products of an era that produced some of the most durably individual sounds in jazz.

"Hear four bars of a record by Sweets or Jaws and you know instantly who it is."

Davis drew his nickname from an early recording session in which he was trying to find names for tunes he had already written.

"Lockjaw" became not only a composition but an integral part of his billing.

Davis is survived by his wife, Beatrice, and a daughter.

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