Josephine Davies

About Josephine Davies

Composer and saxophonist Josephine Davies is an award-winning artist at the forefront of the U.K.'s contemporary music scene. Her music is deeply influenced by the intersection of modalism, post-bop, and the folk music traditions of her native Scottish Shetland Islands and other European climes. While her music is situated in the nebulous genre terrains between folk, classical, and jazz, she pushes at the boundaries of them all with her Satori project. A sax/bass/drums trio founded in 2017, they emphasize extended, collaborative improvisation that defies categorization. The project combines Davies' freedom-seeking self-expression with an avid interest in Japanese philosophy. Their self-titled debut appeared in 2017 to rave reviews from jazz publications across the globe; it was followed by In the Corners of Clouds a year later. In addition to her trio, Davies is a member of several classical ensembles. She served as resident composer and tenor player for the London Jazz Orchestra from 2011 through 2016, and now leads her own performing big band, the Enso Ensemble. In 2019 she was awarded Great Britain's Parliamentary Award for Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year. Davies was born in the remote Scottish Shetland Islands that lie about 110 miles off the northern coast of Scotland. Her family moved to England where her interest in music was nurtured. She trained as a classical flautist, and then as an alto saxophonist at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. During her second year, she discovered John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. She traded her alto for a tenor and her focus from classical to jazz. Not that she neglected classical music, -- she continued to tour with classical saxophone quartets, trad-jazz bands and hard-bop combos. Given her prodigy-like talent as soloist and composer, she became a resident tenor player and composer for the London Jazz Orchestra in 2011 and remained an ensemble and workshop leader at the Guildhall School until graduating with a doctorate in existential philosophy and psychotherapy. In 2016, she left the LJO and made her recording debut as a featured soloist on saxophonist and composer Pete Hurt's big band album A New Start. The album was awarded second place in the best new recording category at the British Jazz Awards. She formed the Satori trio with double bassist Dave Whitford and drummer Paul Clarvis in 2017, and signed to Whirlwind based on the rep she garnered with the LJO. The group's self-titled debut appeared later that year to rave reviews across the globe signifying Davies as a major new jazz talent. A year later, with new drummer James Maddren, Satori issued In the Corners of Clouds. Her long-held fascination with Japanese philosophy informed music that demonstrated the deliberate omission of a chordal instrument and frequent absence of regular harmonic sequences. This method allows for any given composition to serve as a loose base for spontaneity, creativity, and communication among the ensemble, giving rise to a uniquely integrated trio sound. In late 2018, Davies formed her big band the Enso Ensemble. Deeply inspired by composers Maria Schneider and Vince Mendoza, Davies' large-scale writing focused on flowing melodies, rich harmonies, and a compelling, ever-changing use of instrumental textures. She brought the group to London's Vortex in April 2019 for their debut concert. In addition to her work with Satori and Enso Ensemble, Davies formed Orenda with LJO pianist and composer Alcyona Mick and Italian vocalist Brigitte Beraha. The project integrates music, poetry, and spoken word in a celebration of traditional music from Shetland, Norway, Turkey, Germany, and Ireland. They flavor folk melodies with their own influences from worlds of classical music and jazz. "Orenda" is an Iroquois word that signifies a purely spiritual force that may be called forth through song for acts of power, creativity, and healing (as well as destructive uses). Davies' Satori recorded London concerts in January of 2020 at the Oxford Tavern and the Total Refreshment Centre. She edited and compiled them for the long-player How Can We Wake? issued by Whirlwind in July. ~ Thom Jurek


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