Suzanne Davis

Associate Professor
617 747-8258

"When I teach improvising techniques to advanced students, we do what is called 'peripheral listening.' It's the art of playing as though you're having a conversation. It involves dividing your attention and listening as hard to the other players in an ensemble as you listen to your own playing. Exercises involve taping your own playing, listening to what you sound like as you're playing in an ensemble, and critiquing."

"It's important to listen to a wide variety of artists and styles while building a repertoire of standards and learning to play well in an ensemble. The more kinds of music you listen to, the better, so I try to get my students to listen to some of my own musical heroes."

"I encourage students to find their own style, but not to be afraid of imitation as a learning tool. One way I learned was by listening to the artists I really like, transcribing, and playing the transcriptions. And that was very valuable. As a learning tool, it's okay to learn someone else's solo and play it."

"Just because my students are learning jazz harmony, jazz voicing, or jazz theory, it doesn't mean they have to play jazz. They can apply that knowledge to any style of music. If you can learn closed position and spread voicings with tensions in your jazz voicings, you can pretty much apply them to any style of music. And if you can master those voicings, you can pretty much do anything."

Career Highlights

 

  • B.A., Wellesley College
  • Piano studies with Phyllis Moss, Charlie Banacos, and Hal Crook
  • Pianist for the Four Seasons Hotel, Boston (1985–2004) and the Taj Hotel, Boston
  • Performances in New York and Boston with the Suzanne Davis Quartet, featuring Paul Grenadier, trumpet
  • Performances in Paris, France and the Mortefontaine Jazz Festival
  • Recordings include Hymn to FreedomThe Suzanne Davis Quartet: First Set, and A High Tolerance for the Truth
  • Composition Transition Waltz featured in short animated film and received Print magazine’s 1999 Digital 6 Award
  • Received the Hubert Weldon Lamb Prize for Musical Composition from Wellesley College
  • Film scores include The Asian Task Force VideoOrigami Alive, an award-winning animated short film by Joe Davis; and In Between, an independent film by Deborah Twiss
  • Performances with Joe Hunt, Ted Kotick, John Neves, Herb Pomeroy, Greg Hopkins, George Garzone, Phil Granadier, Grover Washington, Jr., and the Ron Levy Blues Band
  • Recordings with Radon Projects, a New York–based independent rock band
  • Teaching methods concentrate on the development of improvisation techniques, peripheral listening, sight-reading and comping skills
  • Author of Jazz Piano Comping