Arts & Culture

UK Saxophone Student’s Research Published in DownBeat

photo of Kirby Davis and Rudresh Mahanthappa play saxophones in masterclass
photo of the cover of the August 2018 issue of DownBeat magazine

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 25, 2018) The undergraduate research of University of Kentucky saxophone performance student Kirby Davis, of Greenville, Kentucky, was published in the August 2018 issue of DownBeat magazine on stands now.

In his piece, Davis transcribes and analyzes part of celebrated alto saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa's solo on "Snap" from "Agrima." "Agrima" is Mahanthappa's latest album with the Indo-Pak Coalition.

UKNow recently caught up with Davis and asked him about the experience.

UKNow: When did you get interested in music and how did that come about?

Davis: I started playing the saxophone and listening to jazz in sixth grade. I started learning to play improvised jazz music when I started high school. I did not have a jazz teacher, so figuring out how jazz worked became an obsession for me.

UKNow: How does this work fit into the undergraduate research you are doing?

Davis: I originally transcribed the Rudresh Mahanthappa solo from my article to perform it for Mahanthappa in a masterclass at UK (held as part of the artist's visit for a show at Singletary Center for the Arts this spring). He explained the theory of his composition and different musical approaches to improvising on it. I frequently referenced my notes from the masterclass when writing the article. Studying his music and participating in his masterclass have been significant influences on my musical development this year.

UKNow: How did you connect with the magazine?

Davis: Miles Osland, professor of saxophone and director of Jazz Studies at UK School of Music, has written similar articles for DownBeat magazine in the past. He is in close contact with one of the editors of the magazine and he recommended me to write the article.

At UK, the rising junior is the lead tenor saxophonist in the Jazz Ensemble and plays alto and tenor saxophone in the top Mega-Sax Quartet, both of which are directed by Osland. In addition, Kirby plays baritone saxophone in the UK Wind Symphony and UK Saxophone Quartet.

Recently, Davis took second place as a jazz soloist at the North American Saxophone Alliance 2018 Collegiate Jazz Competition and was selected to perform as part of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Student Music Ensemble last fall.

DownBeat magazine is considered the granddaddy of American music magazines. It covers the world of jazz, blues and beyond to bring back the best in jazz and blues as well as its offshoots. 

The UK School of Music at the UK College of Fine Arts has garnered national recognition for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, music therapy, composition, theory and music history.