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All That Jazz

Alumna and saxophonist Caroline Davis hones her craft in New York City

Caroline Davis

Caroline Davis ’04 is making a name for herself on the national jazz scene.

Caroline Davis ’04 double-majored in jazz and psychology at UT Arlington, but her improvisational skills really blossomed after she graduated and moved to Chicago.

The alto saxophonist pursued a Ph.D. in music cognition at Northwestern University. It was theory by day and practice by night as she learned from talented artists like guitarist Bobby Broom and the late tenor saxophonist Von Freeman. She calls it her “own private version of music school.”

In 2012 she played the Chicago Jazz Festival for the first time as leader. Soon afterward she released her first album, Live Work and Play.

After interviewing musicians about their mentors and memories of the jazz scene that flourished in Chicago from 1980-2000, she wrote Doors, which will be released in November of this year. The album is an audio documentary of a time and place she feels called to celebrate. Two musicians who played alongside Freeman during that time, guitarist Mike Allemana and bassist Matt Ferguson, perform with drummer Jeremy Cunningham and Davis on the album.

She has since moved to New York City and is performing monthly with her band, Maitri, and working daily on her craft. She practices often with veteran trumpeter John McNeil, who has performed with the likes of Billy Hart, Rufus Reid, and Horace Silver. Links to Davis’ recordings and a schedule of upcoming gigs are at

In between practices and performances, she keeps it all together by teaching.

“That’s the hardest part, finding financial support for my most deeply creative desires,” she says. “But I won’t give up. I’ve got to keep following my path.”