Storyville Records

Davison, Wild Bill

Wild' Bill Davison (January 5, 1906, Defiance, Ohio – November 14, 1989, Santa Barbara, California) was a fiery jazz cornet player who emerged in the 1920s, but did not achieve recognition until the 1940s. He is best remembered for his association with the bandleader Eddie Condon, with whom he worked and recorded from the mid-1940s through to the 1960s. Born William Edward Davison; son of Edward and Anna (Kreps) Davison; married Anne Stewart (stage name of Anne Hendlin McLaughlin), 1954. His nickname 'Wild Bill' reflected a reputation for heavy drinking and womanising (Anne Stewart was his fourth wife). His cornet style was generally hot and powerful, but could also be delicately melodic. The poet Philip Larkin, a fan, described his playing thus: "...a player of notable energy, he uses a wide range of conscious tonal distortions, heavy vibrato, and an urgent, bustling attack. At slow tempos he is melting, almost articulate. Humphrey Lyttelton has compared him with the kind of reveler who throws his arm round your neck one moment and tries to knock you down the next." "All the same, his stylistic mannerisms-the deep hoarse blurrings, the athletic in-front-of-the-beat timing, the flaring shakes-are highly conscious (the 'Wild' is more a personal than a musical sobriquet), and, imposed as they are on a conventional Armstrong basis, make Davison one of the most exciting of white small-band cornetists. His sessions with Sidney Bechet for Blue Note are collisions of two furious jazz talents which at the same time were oddly sympathetic, and prove his ability to play in any kind of milieu; his numerous sides in the Condon tradition show him uniting with (Pee Wee) Russell in the same way. But solo after solo demonstrates that he is not a 'wild' player: each note is perfectly shaped and pitched as if the cornet were his speaking voice, in the style of his favorites (Louis) Armstrong and (Bobby) Hackett , and with an emotional immediacy always hard to parallel." Richard M. Sudhalter described first seeing Wild Bill at Eddie Condon's Club in New York City in the 1950s: "Up there, incredibly, is Bill Davison himself, looking like anything *but* the standard image of the cornet or trumpet player. Not like Louis Armstrong, horn tilted up and eyes rolled back as the tone takes flight; not like Maxie Kaminsky, so tiny that his instrument seems gigantic in his hands. Not like Bix Beiderbecke, in some old photo or other, dented cornet pointed resolutely to the floor. "Nope. This guy is seated, one leg crossed casually over the other, drink on an upended barrel in front of him. He sweeps the cornet into the side of his mouth to expel some supercharged phrase, then jerks it away as if it's too hot to keep there. And I realize, awe-struck, he's chewing *gum*! Where in the world does he *keep* that stuff when he's blowing? "In short, he looked just the way he sounded - like a guy from Ohio (a town named, aptly, Defiance) with a fierce, uninhibited way of attacking the beat, driving a band of whatever size halfway into tomorrow. The music comes out as from a flame-thrower, but with a density and momentum only suggested by even the best (of his) records".


Wild Bill Davison: The Danish Sessions, 1973-1978

Brash and sensitive – new large box set with the legendary American trumpeter Wild Bill Davison

Danish customers, please purchase the box set through our Danish website here


William Edward Davison (1906-1989) was an American trumpeter, and among the best of his kind. Louis Armstrong himself thanked him in his old age for bringing forward the very music to which Armstrong himself had vowed his whole life. 

He had an ear for rhythm and music like no other. His sound is a demonstration of power, but never extortion. Rather, he is precise, athletically sharp and just a moment ahead of the beat, laid-back and superior. He wasn’t interested in sheet music or chords, but had an ear and a routine equal to few. For Davison, it was not a question of which playing style was in fashion: he was driven by a simple desire to create good music.

It wasn’t only his musical style that earned him his Wild Bill nickname. He loved partying and was known to drink like an entire band. He could be gruff and violent, tender and touching, generous or stingy. His fifth and last wife, Ann Stewart, put him under and administration and that diminished the number of female acquaintances and his consumption of boozed dwindled to a trickle. But how did this musician from the great USA turn up in Denmark, settle here and play so prolifically for five years? The story begins at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival. Papa Bue’s Viking Jazzband was on the program, and went backstage to say hello to musicians such as Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett among others. They invite Davison to Copenhagen, and he likes the city so much he decides to stay around. Ole “Fessor” Lindgreen recalls Wild Bill Davisons particular and powerful style: “

I’ve played with many of the Americans, but I have to say I was always impressed by the punch there was in Wild Bill. No matter whether he was playing for forty people or four hundred, there was an enormous amount of power. If the concert was being recorded, the sound people always thought there was something wrong with the equipment – that’s how strong he played. The fact that later in the evening he drank himself stinking drunk didn’t matter so much… He was more serious with his music than you’d think, behind that smash-bang-pow façade. He practiced all the time. He said ‘I have the kind of chops that, if I don’t practice one day, it’s okay. Two days, problems. Three days, serious shit


Wild Bill Davison lived the good life in Denmark for more than five years, between 1973 and 1978. He played countless gigs with Danish bands, especially Fessor’s Big City Band and Papa Bue’s Viking Jazzband, and made trips to Argentina, Spain and Italy with Copenhagen as his base. The music in this box set focuses on his successful collaboration with the Danish bands, who are performing on a high level with deep, affectionate insight into the essence of jazz.