Steve Davis

By George Basler

Steve Davis developed his love for jazz growing up in Binghamton in the 1970s and 1980s. He fondly remembers the vibrant music scene at the time.

“A lot of music was happening in the eighties,” the nationally known jazz trombonist said. The Music Box in Johnson City was an active jazz club. Legendary jazz bassist Slam Stewart had settled in the community. Al Hamme was developing the jazz program at Harpur College (now Binghamton University).

Now, some 40 years later, Davis has made his own notable mark in the jazz world. Given the nickname “Stevie-D” by the late, great saxophonist Jackie McLean, Davis has released 20 albums and composed songs while performing at major venues around the world.

On Saturday, June 15, he’ll return to Binghamton to play a concert at the Phelps Mansion Museum, 191 Court St. “It’s going to be meaningful to come play in my hometown,” Davis said by telephone from his home in Connecticut.

Davis is known for his lyrical, hard-swinging style of playing. Since graduating from the Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in 1989, he has collaborated with jazz luminaries such as Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Dizzy Gillespie’s All-Stars, Chick Corea, Benny Golson and Ron Carter.

Davis will lead a sextet in the Phelps Mansion concert. Performing with him will be his wife, Abena Koomson-Davis, who has established her own reputation as a vocalist, performing with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo and Natalie Merchant.

The couple recently collaborated on the 2024 release Where is Love, featuring songs from the Great American songbook such as “Paper Moon” and “Softly in a Morning Sunrise,” as well as Davis originals to which Koomson-Davis added lyrics.

Also performing with the sextet will be their son, Tony Davis, who is establishing his own reputation as a guitarist and vocalist.

The concert has been in the planning stage for about a year, said Jennifer Corby, executive director of the Phelps Mansion Museum. She and Davis were friends at Binghamton High School and have kept in touch over the years.

Corby said she’s a fan of “straight ahead jazz” and wanted to bring Davis back to Binghamton to play. “It’s going to be terrific,” she said.

Growing up, Davis played with the Binghamton Youth Symphony and remembers being taught by “great teachers” in the Binghamton school system. His mentors included Hamme and Doug Beardsley, a piano player and “local guru of jazz.” He also counts Stewart, who lived short distance from the Davis home on Binghamton’s West Side, as an influence.

Playing at the Phelps Mansion has a special meaning for him, Davis said. His grandmother was a member of the Monday Afternoon Club, a women’s club that met for years at the mansion. When she passed away, he played “Embraceable You,” one of her favorite songs, during a memorial service at the Phelps.

During his career, Davis has balanced teaching with performing. He taught at the Hartt School’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in Hartford, Ct., and joined the Berklee College of Music Brass Department as a full professor in the fall of 2022.

Davis hopes his appearance back in Binghamton will spark young people’ interest in jazz as was the case when his mentors encouraged him years ago. “I hope it’s a way to give back,” he said.

Funding for the concert is coming in part from a grant from the George T. and Winnifred K. Lacey Foundation of the Community Foundation for South Central New York.

IF YOU GO: Jazz trombonist Steve Davis and his wife Abena Koomson-Davis will perform at 7 p.m. June 15 at the Phelps Mansion Museum, 191 Court St., Binghamton. Tickets are $25, and reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered online through the Phelps website,, or by calling 607-722-4873.