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Personality test: Nathan Davis |

Personality test: Nathan Davis

| Wednesday, October 31, 2012 8:58 p.m
Jazz legend Nathan Davis in his office in the University of Pittsburgh Music Building.
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It is a good thing for this area that the University of Pittsburgh appealed more to Nathan Davis than a life in Paris.

The saxophonist came to Pittsburgh in 1969, when the academic position seemed like a good way to root a jazz career. Since then, he has been a mainstay in the area jazz scene, and is the founder of the Pitt Jazz Seminar and Concert, which takes place this week in Oakland.

The seminar has attracted visits from jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins.

Davis, 75, is a Kansas City native who fell in love with Europe when he went there on a tour as a freshman at the University of Kansas, in 1956. He was drafted and ended up there and, in 1961, decided that was going to be his place to live “playing with cats like Kenny Clarke and studying with Nadia Boulanger,” as he puts it.

But the Pitt post came up in 1969, and he did this area a favor by taking it.

Davis, still actively performing and academically, lives with his wife, Ursula, in Bradford Woods.

The star who would play me in the movie version of my life and why:

Sidney Poitier because of the movie called “Paris Blues,” where he played a saxophone player who lived in Paris the same as I did during the 1960s.

Childhood hero and why:

Duke Ellington, because he was a great musician who was at the same time very eloquent.

The superpower I wish I had in real life and why:

I would love to be able to see the truth in everyone and everything, so I guess that means I would love to have psychic perception.

I can’t live without my: iPod, cellphone, DVR, or laptop?

I cannot live without love and respect of my fellow humans.

Favorite brunch food:


Something I would do over if I could and why:

Practice my instruments more. But I’m still practicing five hours a day.

Pick one:

A. Pirates

B. Penguins

C. Steelers

D. Other

E. I hate sports

I love the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins equally, though I never miss a Steelers game.

My favorite Pittsburgh athlete:

Franco Harris

Favorite lunchtime spot:


Top thing on my ‘Bucket List’ to do before I’m gone:

I’m very blessed to be able to keep on doing what I have been.

In five years, I’d like to:

Keep on giggin’

My favorite thing about Pittsburgh is:

Friendliness of the people and its jazz history

Star I’d like to dance with on “Dancing with the Stars”:

My wife

My favorite sandwich, plus fixings:

Tuna fish salad with celery and pickles

One word my mother would use to describe me:

Sensitive or messy

When I was 10, I wanted to be:

A jazz musician

I’m deathly afraid of:


If I was auditioning for “American Idol,” my song would be:

“Body and Soul”

The first band I saw in concert:

Lionel Hampton, Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City

The best concert I’ve ever seen:

Berlin Philharmonic with Herbert von Karajan

Favorite Pittsburgh-area landmark.

Cathedral of Learning

Saturday mornings you’ll find me:


Best new gadget I’ve tried recently:

Zoom 400 recorder

The person I’m most often mistaken for:

When I was younger, George Benson

The worst advice I ever received:


The most famous person I ever became friends with:

Vice President Gore

My most-treasured fashion accessory is:

Keilwerth Saxophone Jacket, a gift from James Moody

What you’ll always find in my glove compartment:


If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be:

A wannabe musician

The last book I read:

“Monk: The Life of the Loneliest Monk”

My most memorable fashion mistake:

Not wearing a tie at the student reception of Juliette Nadia Boulanger

My childhood nickname was:


My first job:

Cleaning out chicken coops and selling it as fertilizer

My worst job:

Bailing hay

My favorite cable channel:


The song that always gets me out on the dance floor and why:

“You Don’t Know What Love Is”

Life would be better without:

Negative people

If I could tour with any two bands, they would be:

Miles Davis, Art Blakey

I never travel without my:


People would be surprised to know that I:

Am very spiritual

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