Davis was blacklisted in the 1970s for speaking up about racism in the music industry, then later earned a doctorate in clinical psychology and balanced performance dates with appointments to see patients.
He was adventurous with his approach to playing music," said pianist Nate Morgan, who played with the elder Davis intermittently over the last 10 years. It takes a certain amount of integrity to step outside the box and say, 'I like it here and I'm going to hang here for a while.'"
Known for his stunning and complete mastery of the instrument, Davis was able to jump between genres. He played classical music with the New York Philharmonic, was a member of the NBC, Westinghouse and CBS orchestras, and played for Broadway shows.
The most enriching experience of his career was collaborating with John Coltrane. Described by jazz critic Nat Hentoff as Coltrane's favorite bassist, Davis performed on the saxophonist's albums including Ascension," Volumes 1 and 2 of The Africa/Brass Sessions" and Ole Coltrane."
The two musicians met one night in the late 1950s at Small's Paradise, a jazz club in Harlem.
Davis viewed his instrument as the backbone of the band," one that should inspire the group by proposing harmonic information with a certain sound quality and rhythmic impulses," Davis said in an excerpt from So What magazine posted on his Web site.