Xavier Davis Associate Professor of Jazz Piano


  • Jazz Studies

503 Music Practice Building
East Lansing, MI 48824

(517) 355-0216

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Video Interview


Xavier Davis has been appointed associate professor of jazz piano at the MSU College of Music, following six years of teaching at the Juilliard School.

His professional career as a jazz pianist took off when the legendary vocalist Betty Carter spotted his outstanding talent at the 1994 International Association of Jazz Educators convention in Boston while he was performing with his college ensemble. It was Carter who brought Davis to New York, hiring him exclusively as the pianist of her working trio. Today, he is one of the most accomplished jazz pianists world wide. Having led master classes and clinics all over the world and coming from a family of music educators, passing on knowledge and skills to young musicians is very important to Davis. 

Davis' development as a musician has been greatly influenced by the inspiration and guidance he has received from Carl Allen, James Williams, and Billy Hart, whom he sees and respects as his great mentors. He has performed and recorded with many other world-famous jazz artists including the legendary Freddie Hubbard, Tom Harrell, Christian McBride, Regina Carter, Stefon Harris, Abbey Lincoln, Wynton Marsalis, Don Byron, Nat Adderley, Nicholas Payton, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Greene, Steve Turre, Al Foster, and Jeremy Pelt. Davis has worked with the Boy's Choir of Harlem as their musical director and he also played keyboard for the television series "Cosby." His talent has been featured on more than 60 albums. Davis is part of the Christian McBride Big Band and was featured on McBride's album The Good Feeling, which won a GRAMMY award in 2012. 

As a bandleader, Davis has released two critically acclaimed albums - Dance of Life and The Innocence of Youth. "The pianist [Xavier Davis] simply knows how to make every note on his instrument sing, and he invariably finds the richest area of the keyboard for voicing his chords," says writer Bob Blumenthal. Jazz Times reviewer John Murph writes "...the music exudes a mature, nonchalant ease and cozy empathy that make this...a rewarding listen." DownBeat gave the CD Dance of Life four stars, stating "Davis steps out with an accomplished debut."

In 2005, Davis became the first person to receive the prestigious New Works Grant twice from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation under the auspices of Chamber Music America. He has won awards at several festivals as well as in DownBeat magazine. Being a gifted composer, arranger, and producer of music, he has composed and arranged music for outstanding artists like Carl Allen, Regina Carter, and Hans Schuman. He has co-produced the album Wise Children by Tom Harrell, and he recently produced the new album of singer Lizzie Thomas. He is also a passionate and experienced film and commercial music composer/producer.