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Russ Davis

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Background information

Born

10 September 1951
Selma, Alabama USA

Occupation(s)

Broadcaster, programmer, writer, performer

Russell Alvin Davis is best known as an international jazz radio programmer and broadcaster since 1978 in various markets in the USA and internationally with syndicated programs in England and Japan as well as programming and presenting the program JAZZ AMERICA on the Voice of America from 1999 through 2020. His activities have also included writing, performing and recording his original music with various groups and individuals as well as writing the scripts and performing television skit-comedy for Atlanta television. He has also written a large volume of poetry and short stories as well as jazz-oriented journalistic pieces that have been published on his personal online sites as well as the website of publications such as JazzTimes Magazine.

With respect to his activities related to jazz he will be best remembered as one of the first and primary programmer-presenters who successfully blended the areas of classic and modern jazz. His work bridged the gap between “traditional” jazz and modern by fusing acoustic jazz based on blues and swing rhythms with various improvisational styles that include electric instrumentation played in multiple rhythms. Some of the styles featured in his programming include jazz-rock-fusion, world jazz blending styles and instrumentation from Eastern Europe, Africa, East Asia, Latin countries and European classical elements as well as Soul, Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop, Electronic and Techno. His programming was created to insure that jazz would evolve as opposed to being relegated to music of a primarily historic nature and relegated to one time period.

Contents

1 Youth

2 Jazz VItae

3 External links

Youth & Early Artistic Activities

Born in Selma, Alabama but raised in Birmingham, Davis began his musical activities working with his first band known as Pleasure’s Fare with guitarists Terry Davis (no relation) and Jimmy Kincaid. In High School he elected to take Speech classes that also led to acting in onstage plays. He attended 2 colleges in the state, Jacksonville State University for one year, where he met his first original music collaborator Jimmy Dunlap, before transferring to The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where he majored in English with a double minor in Speech and Broadcast/Film Communication.  It is there that Davis was hired for his first radio job as an on-air personality for the local Tuscaloosa Broadcasting Corporation station WTBC-AM, which also owned an affiliated FM station WUOA. The FM station featured on-air presenter Gaylon Horton, who was also a musician. Davis and Horton became musical collaborators and with Jimmy Dunlap, who had left his work in the recording studio center in Muscle Shoals, formed the band CAR. The group worked together for over two decades writing, performing and recording hundreds of songs until the death of Gaylon Horton. The band had re-located to Birmingham where Davis had been hired to work at local FM radio station WERC. It was in Birmingham that he continued his work with CAR but made the acquaintance of the members of the band NOD, later to be known as THE RAVES, the Yoakum brothers Chuck, John & Jimmy and guitarist Ken Kennedy. He collaborated with the group on a number of live performances and recordings, continuing their work after moving to Atlanta where Davis had been offered an on-air presenter position at radio station WQXI-FM.  Finding a thriving music scene in Atlanta, began writing and recording his own solo music and collaborating with a number of local luminary musicians such as guitarist and award-winning producer Brendan O’Brien, guitarist, writer and vocalist of the band The Georgia Satellites, Rick Richards and many more. It was in Atlanta that the television program EH, WOT’S THIS? was created and produced by Davis and the member of The Raves, winning local cable television awards. It was also in Atlanta that the most important aspect of his life’s work began…his work in Jazz Radio.

Jazz Vitae

Davis began his career in jazz radio by creating a special program called “Jazz Flavours” in 1978 at WQXI-FM in Atlanta.† The Program was a combination of acoustic and electric jazz with modern jazzy vocals. The format later morphed into a softer form that became known as the NAC (New Adult Contemporary) format which became popular on radio stations all around the world.

In 1988, the Coca Cola Company contracted Davis to create a three-hour version of the program “Jazz Flavours” for syndication to be sponsored by their brand Fresca.  The show aired for over two years in 13 markets including New York, Boston, Atlanta and Houston.  Davis also created another syndicated product, which was offered at the same time, titled “Conversations,” a one-hour interview show with various jazz artists.

The popularity of “Jazz Flavours” allowed him to move to New York in 1988 to work as music director and on air presenter for the start up of contemporary jazz station WQCD-FM (CD 101.9). Davis  worked there until 1998. From 1989 to 1991, Davis programmed and voiced a nightly jazz program for WSTR-FM in Atlanta, shipping all materials from New York City.

Davis’s work with international jazz programming began in the 1990’s. In 1990, the Tokyo radio station BAY-FM 78 contracted him to program, produce and ship a customized version of the weekly program “Cool Cuts” for them, which aired for over three years. In addition to the “Cool Cuts” program for Japan’s BAY-FM 78 Davis also voiced programs for J-WAVE and INTER-FM in Tokyo in the late 1990’s.

From October 1996 to April 1997 he programmed, produced and shipped a five-hour weekly original jazz show to WJZF-FM in Atlanta.

In May 1997 Davis began programming, producing and shipping a one-hour weekly show titled “New York Jazz Week” to JAZZ-FM in London, England which aired all over England on the JAZZ-FM Network of stations.  During his two plus years of involvement with JAZZ-FM he also created special holiday programs such as “Christmas In New York” and via ISDN from his personal studio performed the Breakfast Show (Morning drive show) for a month until their new Morning personality could be hired.

Through the New York-based Global Interface Organization, a Japanese company that provided radio programs for Japan, Davis was contracted in 1999 to create, produce and present the weekly jazz program “Smooth Style” for the 14-station Japanese FM Network (JFN).  These shows were delivered via ISDN from his personal studio.  This program was produced for one year.

In 1998 Davis was employed by the American radio syndication company MediaAmerica to write the scripts and conduct interviews with jazz artists for the weekly show “Personal Notes” hosted by contemporary jazz artist Boney James.  He did this for over a year.

In addition to the programs for Japan and England, Davis have gained further international experience by attending the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, The Barcelona Jazz Festival in Spain, The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal in Canada and the Aruba Jazz Festival in the Caribbean.  Davis has created numerous special programs featuring interviews with artists from these festivals.

From early 1998 through 2008 Davis worked in satellite radio as a programmer and presenter for both U.S.-based satellite radio companies, Sirius and XM Satellite Radio, creating various channels including the world’s only complete modern jazz channel, XM 72 Beyond Jazz, covering all aspects of jazz from the Fusion era of the 1960′s through all its evolutionary phases up to today.

In early 2009 Davis established his own company and website, MOJA Radio (www.mojaradio.com), an online version of the modern jazz channel and accompanying modern jazz community site he had developed on American satellite radio. This syndicated service lasted for a decade, finally shutting down in January 2019.

The crowning achievement of Davis’s jazz radio career is the weekly program “Jazz America” for the U.S. Government’s Voice of America service. Jazz America began on July 4th, 1999 and heard worldwide each weekend by millions of listeners who tuned in online or via their local radio stations. As Davis’s first superior John Stevenson instructed him, the listeners were to hear the best of what America has to offer. Davis has been quoted as saying “In my humble opinion there’s nothing better than what we offer…The best of Jazz, past and present, and conversation with the music makers!” The program was also posted to be heard on demand at any time at the www.RussDavisMOJA.com  Radio website.

Some other recent additional activities include…

1      Writing a regular column for the online edition of JazzTimes Magazine.

2      Conducting live, on-site interviews as special presentations for the Detroit Jazz Festivals from 2009 on.

3      Commissioned by American Pianist’s Association to be Master of Ceremonies at 2011 APA awards ceremony in Indianapolis, IN.

4      Invited by NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) to be moderator of “Grammy Winners Panels” at 2012 & 2013 Detroit Jazz Festivals.

5      Emcee and guest presenter for 2012, 2013, 2016 & 2017 Newport Jazz Festivals.

MEMBER: Jazz Journalists Association

AWARDS:

“Duke DuBois Humanitarian Award” 2020

(Awarded by JazzWeek*)

“Internet Radio Jazz Programmer of the Year” 2011

(Awarded by JazzWeek*)

“Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service for Jazz Education,”

(Awarded by International Association for Jazz Education 2006)

“European Radio Awards,” Nominee 1997

“Jazz Person Of The Year,” Gavin Report, Nominee 1991

“Jazz Person Of The Year,“ Gavin Report, Winner 1990

“Radio Personality Of The Year,” Billboard Nominee 1990

*JazzWeek, celebrates its 20th anniversary in August 2021, is the weekly online publication dedicated to jazz and jazz radio programming. Nominees are selected by JazzWeek subscriber-members, including: jazz radio programmers, jazz record company executives and independent jazz radio record promoters around the world.

External Links

LISTEN TO A SALUTE TO CHICK COREA HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

It is with great sadness that I must acknowledge the passing of CHICK COREA who left us at the age of 79 on Tuesday, 9 February 2021 and leaves a legacy that all of us could only dream of. I won’t go on right now about what he means to me, the jazz world and the universe in general. Instead I plan to post some special audio featuring Chick beginning with one of the special shows I’ve created over the years, the one-hour special MONDAY WITH THE MASTERS that I presented on MOJA Radio and XM Satellite Radio’s Beyond Jazz channel.

Any time you like you can enjoy this feature…now or any time right here on the Russ Davis MOJA website at https://russdavismoja.com/voice-america-2/ I will be adding more in the coming days so stay tuned. THANK YOU CHICK FOR ALL YOU’VE MEANT TO ALL OF US!

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Chick Corea at 751 LISTEN TO A SALUTE TO CHICK COREA HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

Chick Live in DET 121 LISTEN TO A SALUTE TO CHICK COREA HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

Chick Corea wins TWO MORE GRAMMY’S in 2015!!

Chick Corea Russ Compressed for Web 271x300 LISTEN TO A SALUTE TO CHICK COREA HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

Chick Corea Live @ Newport 2013 271x300 LISTEN TO A SALUTE TO CHICK COREA HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

Chick Corea wins TWO MORE GRAMMY’S in 2015!!

THANK YOU FOR 10 WONDERFUL YEARS OF MOJA RADIO!

ENJOY THE WONDERS OF JAZZ HERE ON RUSS DAVIS MOJA!

My dear fellow MOJANs,

russ 247x300 THANK YOU FOR 10 WONDERFUL YEARS OF MOJA RADIO!

Russ Davis of MOJA Radio thanks you for being there as part of the MOJA Movement!

This was a tough one but I had to tell you sometime. After 10 years of operation I had to shut down MOJA Radio at the end of the year 2018.  There are a number of reasons for this decision and they have all piled up to the point of diminishing returns, no matter how much it has meant to me for the last 10 years and how much I love doing the work. Here are some of the reasons… 

The costs have risen and the income is flat, plain and simple. The funds simply aren’t there to do anything more that just keep it going in its current state. 

I am a jazz programmer and presenter and have never been a salesman, a tech genius, business geek or marketer so I have not been able to put together ways to build the business beyond the subscription model. 

For years now I have been a one-man-operation and with all of the work added to the “fun part” (interviewing artists, editing them and preparing for air, listening to music and choosing what to add, creating each day’s programming and making sure it was in the server, etc) I have had to do a mountain of “grunge work” like responding to with the constant communication from record/artist promoters, reports to the licensing corporations (BMI, ASCAP, SEASAC & SoundExhange), paying the bills, doing the taxes, dealing with subscriber issues, dealing with everyday tech problems with the internet service, computer problems, glitches with the streaming service, taking out the garbage…you name it. It has taken hours each day to make this work and I am never “off” to the point where I am always checking in on things even when I’m supposedly “on vacation”, and going away on trips for the shortest amount of time, much less long vacations, is almost impossible. 

On top of this I am still creating my 2-hour weekly show for Voice of America and besides the prep work (interviews, editing and programming) I have to deal with the army of folks in Washington, DC, do all the tech stuff and get it to them and that is a ton of work too. 

I could go on and this is getting boring for me and I know for you but I felt that we have developed quite a relationship over these ten years of MOJA Radio, and, for many of you, before that with the years we put into the XM channel Beyond Jazz, and you deserved more than just an abrupt farewell. 

Michelle Sammartino resized THANK YOU FOR 10 WONDERFUL YEARS OF MOJA RADIO!

THANK YOU MICHELLE SAMMARTINO! Without you there would be no MOJA Radio!

In the beginning my partner, Michelle Sammartino, put the operation in motion. She was not only the excellent presenter of her show Jammin’ Jazz, but the tech expert who put the website together and set up various business and social media accounts. That was in 2008 when XM was taken over by sirius. Since there were no visionary leaders like Lee Abrams and Dave Logan, who commissioned us to create “The World’s MOdern JAzz Radio Channel” that we called Beyond Jazz, the sirius guys didn’t see the need for a jazz channel that filled the massive void between smooth jazz and traditional…the place where all the truly modern and creative jazz was being made and the future of jazz was being developed. We tried to make that happen and with your interest and monetary support we’ve done just that for this last decade. 

In addition to the great MICHELLE SAMMARTINO, without whom there would have been no MOJA Radio, I must also give a huge thanks to one of the most talented, generous and kind people I’ve ever worked with, DAVID BLACK, the brilliant man who put the resources of his company MALDENITE PRODUCTIONS behind the creation of the FREE!!! MOJA Radio mobile app that so many of us have used to take the channel on the road. Blessings on you David! And then there’s my old friend and radio associate CAROLYN BEDNARSKI, who created, produced and presented her show THE NEW JAZZ SINGERS with CAROLYN BEDNARSKI since 2012. 

David Black THANK YOU FOR 10 WONDERFUL YEARS OF MOJA RADIO!

David Black of Maldenite Productions who created the free MOJA Radio Mobile Apps! Thanks David!

Then there is a massive THANK YOU to the musicians of MOJA whose creativity has kept “Jazz” alive, thriving and evolving. Plus…you would not believe how many artists actually donated and/or subscribed to the service, not only offering their incredible music but their hard-earned money to support MOJA Radio! I feel the deepest sadness about letting you down with the cessation of our operation but I will always be in your corner and am never going to cease supporting you in every way I can.

SO…where do we go from here? I am going to keep the website which is actually RUSSDAVISMOJA.com where I will adjust things to fit future endeavors. I’m thinking of posting some hour-long shows of MOJA programs for listening on demand and I will post my VOA show there as I always do so bookmark this site and visit from time to time to see what’s up.  

carolyn bednarski 2013 compressed 221x300 THANK YOU FOR 10 WONDERFUL YEARS OF MOJA RADIO!

THE NEW JAZZ SINGERS with CAROLYN BEDNARSKI …a big part of MOJA Radio!

Again…I’m sorry for the short notice as I just made the final decision on this a few weeks ago. I will never be able to thank you enough for all you’ve done for MOJA Radio and most especially for me!

All the best, always,

Russ Davis

MOJA Radio

www.russdavismoja.com

Russ Davis…”My Life in Jazz Radio!”

Russ Davis reflects on his 4+ decades in Jazz Radio!

Psycedelic Russ Compressed 300x224 Russ Davis...My Life in Jazz Radio!

Russ inside the RUSSDAVISMOJA Radio studios…I THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

I was just thinking about the fact that I began my jazz radio career back in the year 1978! With all the changes in technology and the business in general it strikes me that to simply be actively involved in programming and presenting this area of jazz and still be thriving is pretty astounding. I sometimes feel like a jazz musician who has chosen to express himself in a personal way and just let the chips fall where they may as opposed to crafting something that might get me more work in the jazz arena as it exists today. It isn’t that brave an endeavor really. I’m simply doing what I know how to do and building on something that began for me way back in the 20th century.  I hope you’ll indulge me as I tell this story. 

Read more »

Check out the videos on MOJA Vision

Emmy Signature Check out the videos on MOJA Vision

Check out the work of Emmy-Winning Video producer Chris Parker on MOJA Vision!

HEY THERE ALL YOU MOJANS!!!! I know you like videos and I’ve just been doing some work with Emmy-winning producer Chris Parker to create 7 new pieces to go with the 9 others that are there on my MOJA Vision YouTube site. Just click on the MOJA Vision link on the lower left panel of the MOJA Radio homepage and you’ll be taken there where you can see them all.

The new videos include some of the live performance by each artist, my commentary and interviews with the artists plus some very cool and rare images Mr. Parker found to add to the mix. Here’s the new stuff you’ll find there…
1. Return To Forever IV doing “Renaissance” with comments by Jean-Luc Ponty
2. Bill Frisell doing “Come Together” at Montreal Jazz Fest
3. Erik Truffaz with portions of three performances from Montreal Jazz Fest
4. Club D’Elf with John Medeski at NYC’s Le Poission Rouge (Mike Rivard comments)
5. Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion with drumming legend Mike Clark from Detroit Jazz Fest
6. Jenny Scheinman & Bill Frisell duo show from Newport Jazz Fest with Jenny’s comments

Check ‘em out, enjoy and SPREAD THE WORD! Russ Davis