Acoustic Sounds

Nathan Davis with George Arvanitas Trio

Live in Paris: The ORTF Recordings 1966-67



Label: Sam Records / INA

Produced By: André Francis & Jack Diéval (original recordings), Fred Thomas (reissue producer)

Engineered By: ORTF

Mixed By: ORTF

Mastered By: Francois Le Xuan at Studio 101

Lacquers Cut By: Theo Krieger at SST

By: Michael Fremer

March 5th, 2023



Nathan Davis Live Recordings Re-pressed by Sam Records

The 3LP 'Live In Paris' is still available and highly desirable

Multi-instrumentalist, educator, and composer Nathan Davis (1937-2018), born in Kansas City, became a jazz fan at a young age through his father’s record collection and while in high school, became proficient on tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet and flute.

At 16, he left home for Chicago where he remained in school while gigging with bands. Later, he returned home and won a scholarship to The University of Kansas, where he majored in music education. Jazz there wasn’t held in high esteem, so he studied classical music and played piano, English horn, oboe and violin. In 1959, he graduated with a B.A. in music education, but not before traveling to Europe with the college band.

After college he “joined up” and attended the Navy School of Music. He visited Germany where he was hired to play in a band that included Bud Powell, Don Byas, Herb Geller, Sahib Shihab (born Edmund Gregory) and others, and played US military bases throughout Europe.

Like many other Black ex-pat musicians, he chose for good reason to sit out the turbulent ‘60s in Europe. He lived in Paris from 1961-1969, lured there by drummer Kenny Clarke, and played with locals and ex-pats like Larry Young among many others. The list of greats with whom he played is too long to include here. He also studied composition with the classically trained turned jazz aficionado Andre Hodeir.

Returning to America in 1969, Davis earned a PhD at Wesleyan in ethnomusicology and from there spent the next 43 years as director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where his accomplishments there and elsewhere (he had a piano-cello duet piece premiered at Carnegie Hall) could fill more pages.  

According to the annotation, Davis turned down both a Blue Note contract and an offer to join Art Blakey’s band, which at the time was called “The New Jazzmen” (Sam Records released that encounter as well with the group that included Freddie Hubbard, Jaki Byard and Reggie Workman). There’s so much more to the man’s recording and playing achievements, some of which is in the excellent annotation by Jean Szlaamowicz.

Davis has 18 albums to his credit including this set of ORTF live recordings first released on Sam Records in 2018, which was recently repressed at Optimal using metal parts from the earlier two Pallas pressings. Much to my surprise, this third pressing of the 5-sided 3LP triple gatefold set remains in Acoustic Sounds' Sam Records store (see link below). $60 for this deluxe release and it's not sold out? But neither is Sam Records' reissue of Lester Young’s Le Dernier Message De Lester Young (brilliantly reviewed here by Joseph Washek), nor some other great ones I reviewed on my previous web endeavor.

The music is “of the time” and when you listen, you’ll hear Coltrane- and Tyner-esque elements (according to the annotation, Davis also played with Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones), but on the opener “The Hip Walk” you’ll also immediately hear Davis’ singular warm yet fervent tone. If you want to start on a particularly engaging, slinky, and original tune try side C’s “Mid Evil Dance," which for me presages Weather Report by a few years. Side D’s “The Rules of Freedom” is the most Coltrane-esque, though George Avanitas’ piano approach fundamentally differs from Tyner’s and his long solo takes unique and often whimsical turns. The audience goes wild for the performance.

There are two takes of the standard “Yesterdays,” one with Davis on flute and the other on saxophone. The flute one takes flight, the sax one is deep and soulful. “The Thing," the most bluesy and “Blue Note-y” tune is the only that doesn’t quite hit the target but it’s hardly a clunker.

Sides A and B were recorded November 19th, 1966 at Studio 105 Charles Trenet, Maison de la Radio, Paris, and the rest except the final track on side E were recorded October 22nd, 1967 at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. Side E’s second track features a different group and sound and is the earliest recording from February 1965, recorded at the Champs-Elysées Theater.

The live stereo recording originally produced by ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise, France's national broadcasting agency) is not one of those “someone set up some mics and we got some great music poorly recorded” type affairs. Rather there’s an excellent if somewhat distant soundstage and plenty of live sound “air.” Even the audience is well-mic’d. Instrumental timbres are not fully saturated but impressive imaging and a really pleasing, unprocessed drum sound holds it all well together in three-dimensional space.

While the sources are the “original master tapes,” the mastering and sound restoration was done in one place (see credits) and the lacquer cutting was at SST so no doubt it was cut from files. No matter. The album was released with full permission and cooperation of the Nathan Davis Estate and the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA). The triple gatefold packaging and reproduction of photographs by Jean-Pierre Leloir are up to Sam Records’ consistent high quality, all for $60. This third pressing is limited to 1500 copies so move fast!

Music Specifications

Catalog No: SR20/2

Pressing Plant: Optimal Media


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: Digital Transfers of Analog Masters

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-03-06 05:48:12 AM

    Silk Dome Mid wrote:

    Pardon the quibbling, but shouldn't this read "re-pressed"? From "If something is repressed, it's restrained or held in. You may be full of repressed anger toward your brother over that terrifying incident from 4 years ago ..." Or perhaps that's exactly what you meant. I don't know your brother.

    • 2023-03-06 03:09:18 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      eye fickst it

      • 2023-03-06 04:24:48 PM

        Malachi Lui wrote:

        in our world, 'repressed' no hyphen usually works too. general terminology is without the hyphen, even though with the hyphen is probably closer to usual writing conventions.

        • 2023-03-06 07:01:07 PM

          Ivan Bacon wrote:

          In your world (not mine or anyone who knows better) people also misuse the word Random in place of Miscellaneous, Way in place of Much. They also use the word So to start a sentence, or worse a paragraph, and all kinds of other bastardizations started by 15 year old girls.

          Just because It "works" in your world does not make it correct.

          I care about the proper use and care of words. Repressed does not "work" for re-pressed, or to state it properly, repressed in not the proper word to use when stating that an album has been re-pressed.

          Let me paraphrase something i believe i have said to you before. The proper use of language is of paramount importance to someone in your profession. Be a professional, do not misuse it.

          As you can tell i am not repressed.

          • 2023-03-06 07:09:23 PM

            Malachi Lui wrote:

            however, keep in mind that language is always developing. the english language right now is different from what it was 50 years ago!

          • 2023-03-06 09:31:17 PM

            Roy Edelsack wrote:

            Brilliant parody of a language “curmudgeon” giving advice to an aspiring young writer. My hat is off to you sir!

      • 2023-03-06 04:42:49 PM

        Silk Dome Mid wrote:

        Another triumph for my alter ego, the Hyphenator!

  • 2023-03-08 05:54:07 PM

    tony a wrote:

    Michael, still enjoying this LP long after your first mention and review (several?) years ago. An excellent recording that I consider as a notable stand-out in my collection. Love the live feel and spontaneous dynamics that spring the music to life. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention. Peace, Tony