For Roger Davidson, music is a world without boundaries. Though commonly termed a classical artist, Roger has developed a fearlessly eclectic reach, both as a composer and pianist. “Music is for the world,” says Roger, whose acclaimed catalog ranges from chamber, symphonic, and choral pieces to jazz, tango, Klezmer, children’s music, a wide span of Latin and Brazilian projects, and most recently, a Solo Piano project – Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies and Meditations for Solo Piano – an adventurous and spiritual album that bridges the next stage of his life, and leans more toward Contemporary Instrumental/New Age piano than any of the genres for which he is previously known.
Michael G. Nastos of All Music Guide termed him an “extraordinary” pianist devoted to “reaching for the inner soul.” His remarkable flair for melody helps him cross stylistic lines with ease, which is apparent in Temple of the Soul. Roger says this, more than any previous album, embraces his musical past and merges it with his ongoing passion for Sacred Music, which manifested in 1982 with Unispace (for choir, organ, piano, and percussion), inspired by a United Nations conference of the same name on the peaceful uses of outer space. His Sacred Music recordings include One God, One World and Missa Universalis (Soundbrush Records), both of which include choral works representing the beginnings of what he later termed “Universal Sacred Music.”
In 2000, Roger created the Society for Universal Sacred Music (SUSM) as part of his lifelong commitment to creating a repertoire of sacred music that celebrates the unity and unconditional love of God. The Society became a worldwide collective, commissioning, performing and recording over 50 works, and organizing five editions of the Festival of Universal Sacred music, featuring performers from around the world.
Cross-cultural celebration is the theme of Soundbrush Records, the celebrated company that Roger founded. He has developed an impressive roster of hand-picked musicians from around the world and a rich, diverse catalogue. “The most important thing for me is: does the music we pick have passion, energy, or is it too cerebral? A lot of jazz is completely in the head and does not come from the heart. All the music at Soundbrush Records has to have a feeling, come from somewhere. The music has to connect emotionally.”
Soundbrush’s artists include tango master Raúl Jaurena, whose 2007 Soundbrush release, Te Amo Tango, won a Latin GRAMMY®. Soundbrush is also the home of many of Roger’s eighteen albums. His latest, Journey to Rio, is a double-CD of his Brazilian compositions, recorded in Rio with a band of top-flight Brazilian players and produced by Pablo Aslan, the gifted Argentine bassist and bandleader.
International co-mingling is in Roger’s blood. He was born in Paris in 1952 to a French mother and an American father; when he was one year old, the family moved to New York. He started playing piano at four, and taking violin lessons at eight.
“We didn’t have a TV,” he reminisces. “Two things I did as a kid for entertainment: I climbed up the piano bench and played, and I read about cars, a hobby I still have.” While still a child he taught himself to read and write music. Davidson learned to play through improvising, a practice that has served him well as a pianist. From there he became a voracious student who traveled the world on a mission to learn about all styles.
Roger attended Boston University, where he studied with David Del Tredici and Theodore Antoniou, among others, and earned a master’s degree in composition in 1980. After graduating, he studied with early baroque music scholar Sidney Beck. At his suggestion, Davidson enrolled at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. “I wasn’t intending to pursue choral conducting,” says Davidson. “I was already an orchestral conductor. I had started a community orchestra in Boston while I was a student. But they didn’t have a composition program at Westminster at the time.”
At Westminster, Roger began writing choral music. He went on to found the Society for Universal Sacred Music, devoted to works that “have a message of unity and aspiration that included all humanity.” The Society is now a worldwide collective, devoted to commissioning new works and presenting performances all over the world; they have curated the works of over 50 artists to date.
In the mid-‘80s, Roger took his first steps toward a professional jazz career when he attended the Stanford Jazz Workshop at Stanford University in California. He went twice, studying under visiting teachers Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie. Upon returning to New York, Roger reconnected with Helen Keane, whose son had been a childhood schoolmate of his. In 1987, Keane attended one of Roger’s concerts. “She came up and said, ‘Nice to see you again. You played really well. How about jazz?’
As a jazz pianist, Roger went on to be mentored by Keane, Bill Evans’ longtime manager, who later produced his first jazz album. JazzTimes has since called him an “impeccable player.”
“Actually, I’d been listening to jazz since I was a child,” says Roger. “I loved improvisation and rhythm. I just didn’t think I knew enough.” Keane introduced him to bassist David Finck and drummer Dave Ratajczak, “and it was like awakening a part of myself that hadn’t been fully awake.” In 1991, Keane produced an album that was eventually released on Soundbrush Records as Ten to Twelve.
Roger’s musical curiosity has never stopped growing. He recorded his first tango compositions on Mango Tango (1995), a CD that adds many stylistic flavors to that distinctly Argentine genre. He keeps revisiting the tango, notably on the albums Amor por el Tango (2002) and Pasión por la Vida (2008), a duo session with Raúl Jaurena. In 2011, Roger and David Finck recorded Umbrellas and Sunshine, an homage to the extravagantly lush music of Michel Legrand. With Finck and drummer Lewis Nash, Roger saluted Helen Keane, the woman who launched him as a jazz player, in the CD We Remember Helen (2012). Roger’s long-standing love affair with Brazilian music has resulted in several albums, including Bom Dia (2007) and Brazilian Love Song (2009).
“It’s been a great blessing that I’ve been able to do so many things well, and that they feel natural, as part of the global musical vocabulary I’ve developed,” he says. “I feel a lot of empathy for all kinds of good music – music that really comes from the heart and that seeks to communicate passion and positive feelings.”
In 2013, Roger produced and recorded his first solo piano album, Temple of the Soul: Rhapsodies and Meditations for Solo Piano (Soundbrush Records, 2014), on an impeccably-restored Steinway at the studio of two-time Grammy®-winner Adam Abeshouse. Roger maintains that this intensely personal album is not a diversion from other genres, but rather a forward-moving culmination of his inspirations, lifelong studies, world-wide collaborations, and interest in Sacred Music. In a way, it may very well be a holistic stepping stone to the next stage of Roger’s life as an ordained minister, which will include continuing his spiritual work, creating new music and disseminating music from the Society for Universal Sacred Music. The new album, he says, is “not just a journey of the spirit; it’s an intuitive journey around the world. When you have the right color and the right kind of brush to express a feeling or a quality of life, it instinctively comes up and becomes part of the fabric of each piece.”
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Please contact publicist Beth Hilton, The B Company, with requests for interviews, artwork, or music: 310-560-8390 or via bethhilton(at)thebcompany(dot)com.