North Country Mourns Rick Davies

A pillar of the North Country music scene, trombonist Rick Davies succumbed to a long battle with cancer last week.

“Rick was a mentor, an amazing musician and a very close friend,” said Lowell Wurster, percussionist of Plattsburgh-based funk/rock act Lucid. “His music and his crazy stories will live on forever.”

Since 2008, Davies had been the chair of the music department at SUNY Plattsburgh. But, he was so much more than that. As modest as he was talented, many didn’t know of his past work, where he lived more than one life before he ever set foot in Clinton County.

“His impact on the local and global music community will never be forgotten,” said Lucid saxophonist Jamie Armstrong. “I studied under Rick for six years. He breathed life into music. His compositions just flowed out of him, and he taught with that same fluidity.”

Originally from New Mexico, Davies bounced around America for decades, performing, recording and collaborating with some of the biggest names in music, from Michael Jackson to Blondie, Mya to Wyclef Jean (to which he appeared on a VH-1 Storytellers episode with Jean and the Refugee All-Stars). With his heart and soul primarily aimed at Latin and jazz music, Davies released numerous albums throughout his bountiful and joyous career, most notably “Salsa Nortena” which went on to win the 2012 Independent Music Award for “Best Latin Recording.”

But, for all of us who knew him personally in the North Country, he was much more than just a great musician, he was a beloved member of our community.

“He was a great friend and mentor” Armstrong said. “I can’t imagine my life unfolding the way it has without his influence and encouragement.”

“He would call and check up on my father during his hard times, and we did the same with Rick during his — he was much more than just a family friend, he was family,” Wurster added. “He will be deeply missed, with his passing a loss for people of many cultures all over the world.”

And, for me personally, coming home will never be the same without running into Rick. Whether it was cheering him on as he led the Adirondack Jazz Orchestra at Olive Ridley’s, onstage at some bar with Lucid or during the annual Mayor’s Cup, or simply coasting through another beautiful set at Irises, that trademark sly grin will always be remembered fondly.

Each and every time I would visit home, I’d find myself at Meron’s for a game of pool and cold Labatt Blue. Like clockwork, Davies and his wife, Karen, would be sitting at the far end of the counter, smiles all around. He’d always ask what I was up to, how the music journalist gig was going, and would speak excitedly about whatever project he was currently working on, how “incredible these kids I’m working with are.”

Rick Davies loved life, which was showcased in his emotional playing, his sincere passion to teach and share the craft and camaraderie that resides solely in music.

And for that, we loved him.

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