"If I go to a concert and I'm supposed to be reviewing it, and I'm taking notes, I sometimes wind up jotting down as much about the audience as I do about the performers," Francis Davis recently told The Atlantic in an online interview. "I'm interested in what music means to people: what does it signify to them?" A contributing editor to The Atlantic since 1992, Davis's interest in the social and intellectual significance of jazz, musical theater, pop, and blues has brought a unique depth to his career as a music critic and historian.
Davis's writing career began to take form in the scripts he wrote for a Philadelphia public-radio show (which he also produced and hosted) that specialized in playing out-of-print jazz. When his scripts evolved into more sophisticated jazz criticism, he started submitting them for publication and became a staff writer at a small New Jersey newspaper. Since his first article for The Atlantic, "The Loss of Count Basie" (August 1984), he has authored four books: In the Moment (1986), Outcats (1990), The History of the Blues: The Roots, the Music, the People From Charley Patton to Robert Cray (1995), and Bebop and Nothingness: Jazz and Pop at the End of the Century (1996).
Davis writes for a variety of publications, including The Village Voice,
The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Stereo Review. A 1994 Pew Fellow in
the Arts, he teaches a course in jazz, blues, and folklore at the University of
Pennsylvania and is currently working on a biography of John Coltrane and a
history of jazz.
Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.