Angela Davis Makes People Happy

Angela Davis, winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, ran for vice president with the Communist Party USA in 1980 and 1984. Angela Davis is also listed as the performer of “Make Someone Happy,” beautifully rendered on alto saxophone. As it happily turns out, that is Australian altoist Angela Davis, who spent eight years in New York, recording albums, Lady Luck and Art of the Melody. Check her out on “Little Did They Know.”

Angela Davis (Non-Commie Version)

Davis’ influences include Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, and Paul Desmond, who all recorded with strings. So did Charlie Parker, whose rendition of “Just Friends” included Mitch Miller on oboe, Ray Brown on bass and Buddy Rich on drums. Parker admired the alto sound of Hal McKusick, showcased here on “Irresitible You.” Hear the beautiful tone of Sonny Redd on “Moon River” and “Alone Too Long.” Compare Bud Shank’s performance on “Here’s That Rainy Day” and his cover of “Michelle.” Just so you know, that’s Bud’s flute solo on “California Dreamin.”

Also worth a listen is Charlie Mariano, here performing “Plum Island” in fine style. For sheer virtuosity, even in the altissimo range, it’s hard to match Earl Bostic on “Up There in Orbit.”

John Coltrane once played in Bostic’s band, and here’s what John sounded like on alto. These great artists have all departed, but the torch has been passed.

Art Pepper influenced Stefano de Battista, here performing “Song for Flavia,” with drummer Elvin Jones, who played with Coltrane. Top-shelf tenorist Eric Alexander, a Dexter Gordon disciple, has now picked up the alto saxophone. Check out Eric on “All My Tomorrows,” with string accompaniment, in the style of Angela Davis. If the Australian gets the attention she deserves she’s bound to make many people happy. The communist Angela Davis could use some cheering up.

On an episode of “Finding Your Roots,” Henry Louise Gates revealed that Davis’ tenth great-grandfather was William Brewster, who came to America on the Mayflower. The news didn’t make Davis happy but she might take advice from the late Mose Allison:

Ever since the world ended

There’s no more black and white

Ever since we all got blended

There’s no more reason to fuss and fight.

Dogmas that we once defended

No longer seem worthwhile.

Ever since the world ended,

I face the future–

With a smile.

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