Jazz Community Loses a Friend with the Passing of Robert Merlin Davis

(Photo Collage by Jack Zuff)

After a rapid six-month struggle with an aggressive debilitating illness, Robert Merlin Davis succumbed to what his body could no longer sustain.  Davis died yesterday in Phoenix, Arizona.  Remarkably, Robert Davis did not let his mind or spirit be beaten.  We will continue to hear stories in the coming months of how Bob Davis, as he was called by some, continued to reach out to others.  Texting and Facebook messaging with his connections here in Buffalo and throughout the contacts he had across the country.

Davis was a supportive presence in the jazz community.  And a fine jazz pianist in his own right as well.  You would find him supporting the Historic Colored Musicians Club or you would find him attending a concert.  His omnipresent smile could always be found when he attended a room-filled event.  He had a fervent passion for jazz.  Once freelance writing for Downbeat magazine and interviewing the likes of Chick Corea.  A highlight for Robert’s passion was the release of his CD “Lizzen” a few years back where he got to record his distinct jazz piano stylings.

Robert Merlin Davis CD Release Concert - JazzBuffalo

I got to know Robert, as I always called him, first through our mutual interest in jazz.  But we developed a “meet for coffee” friendship discussing another passion of ours.  We talked a lot about business, leadership, marketing, motivation, and writing.  He was an “idea” man, and he would get excited scratching out diagrams of what we were talking about on his notepad.  At times, we were both like characters in an old Jackie Gleason sitcom.  Exclaiming how we were going to hatch the next gazillion billion-dollar idea and enterprise!

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As two proud Dads, we often talked about our daughters. We shared in common having a daughter each living in New York City. And how we marveled at that fact. We even managed once to be in New York City at the same time and bumping into each other at the same conference we were attending.

Robert was a jack of all trades.  A renaissance man.  A skillful magician, writer, musician, dabbler in drawings, emcee, connector, supporter, and thinker.  I am sure beloved descriptions by others will come up as they reflect on how he crossed their paths.

Fittingly, I found out about his passing through a LinkedIn connection that Robert had suggested to reach out and connect with me just a short while ago.  True to his nature it was.  Connecting me, and I am sure the same with others, with people even though he could not be out there himself.

Because of his illness and this way-too-long pandemic, he never was able to get back to Buffalo in the past year.  His presence was and will continue to be missed in the jazz community. 

This morning, it feels like there is something just a little less due to his passing.

Our sincere condolences and sympathy to his daughter Hayley, his daughter Jessamy, Becky Davis, Robert’s family, and to the many friends he made throughout his life’s journey. 

10 thoughts on “Jazz Community Loses a Friend with the Passing of Robert Merlin Davis

    1. My sincere condolences to you and Robert’s family on his passing. I am in shock – while I only met Robert once at his Uncle Henry’s funeral in Toronto we became friends on facebook and I knew his Mum’s (Rita) family very well. Her brother Henry was married to my late Sister Muriel many years ago. I came to realize what a good and oh so smart man Robert was and the world is so much less with his passing. We had been trying to arrange a get together with some other cousins in Niagara Falls for a few years now but like all plans COVID made us put those on hold. Again my deepest sympathies to you and his daughters. I think I met one of them in Toronto at Henry’s funeral. Please forgive but my memory isn’t too great these days – I blame it on my age.

  1. Such a beautiful piece. Thank you for this. He was actually in Buffalo within the last two years — he was back and forth between here and Arizona, and was in Arizona when he got sick. But this is his home, and we are so grateful to have such blossoming community here. He lives on in all of us, and the world is a better place because he was in it.

    1. All of the jazz community express our deep condolences, Hayley. I can tell you that during our coffee meets, you and my daughter Melissa always came up. How we marveled at the fact you were both in NYC doing wonderful things. He was proud of your accomplishments and of his family – as I am of both my daughters as well. We enjoyed being two Dads talking about stuff like that. Much blessings to you Hayley.

  2. Bob and I worked together at WJYE in the 1990’s, and remember him as you describe: warm, inquisitive, fun to be with. An original thinker and gifted marketer. So much talent. My condolences and sympathies to Bob’s friends and family.

  3. On behalf of the Historic Colored Musicans Club club of Buffalo, NY, and myself personally, I would like to extend sincere condolences to the family and friends of Robert Merlin Davis. He was always an ardent member &;supporter of the CMC. I was honored to be a part of his group JazzWiz which performed frequently in Western New York and also to be the bassist on his CD, Lizzen.. we will miss his passion for the music as well as his entrepreneurial spirit.

  4. I was stunned to hear the news of Bob’s passing from a drummer friend of mine with whom Bob occasionally played in his jazz group. I saw Bob tickle the ivories only one time, but it was enough to see he was a virtuoso on the instrument.

    I’m a retired marketing writer and journalist, and that arena was where Bob and I first met. We went toe to toe competing for clients’ projects. He won some, I won some. I was especially happy when a job went to me, because it was pretty difficult to ever best Bob, a consummate wordsmith with a unique creative flare.

    I also helped pay the bills by serving for 15 years as an adjunct professor at Daemen College, and one time had Bob as a guest speaker in my media-writing class. Both the students and I were impressed, to be sure.

    Bob will be missed here. But he’s surely welcomed enthusiastically in heaven, where I’m betting he’ll continue the music in style.

    Rest in Paradise, my friend!


    Paul Chimera

  5. I was lucky enough in this live to be able to jam with Robert on numerous occasions through the years that I have known him (including an evening at the Historic Colored Musicians Club). Always remarkable, brilliant, innovative and improvisational – he and his music will be dearly missed.

    Safe passage and rest in peace, my brother.

    Brother Bear
    Francis Xavier

  6. I had the pleasure to meet Bob at Howard & Mary’s “Lounge Academy”. We enjoyed a similar sense of humor. He added his magic touch to a cartoon exhibit I had and also played the baby grand in my home. And of course, lots of conversations about big ideas.
    We stayed connected during his illness. His last request for one of my cartoons was for a magician. which he enjoyed, but sadly no magic trick to keep him with us. Goodbye Robert Merlin Davis

  7. Bob and I were neighbors growing up in Williamsville and attended elementary School
    , middle school and high school together . We worked together on our High School reunions over the past 25 years . My dad , Harvey Rogers was a Jazz lover and fan and attended many local Buffalo Jazz events and gigs and always enjoyed hearing Bob play . When my dad was at the end of his life in 2013 , and hospitalized at Roswell Park , Bob and a few other local Jazz musicians came to the hospital and played some Jazz tunes in the lobby of Roswell Park for my dad , in an effort to cheer him . Not only was he thrilled and touched by the gesture , many patients, visitors and staff were entertained by the wonderful music. I will never forget his kindness. He will be sadly missed by so many , but never ever forgotten.

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