Ornette was fantastic. Frances Davis was also fantastic.

“Miles liked Ornette,” noted the restaurant hostess as though first-name-basis chatter about two jazz world geniuses was the most natural thing to say in the world. Adam and I were grabbing a bite at Hamburger Hamlet before what would be a wonderful Ornette Coleman concert at Royce Hall.

Yes, that Miles. And this beautiful lady knew his taste. She was married for nine years to the great jazzman. And for the past twenty years, Frances Davis has been a reigning gracious presence at the Hamlet’s entryway.

Still lovely and fit, the former dancer tells a sad story about her jealous husband pulling her from the original cast of “West Side Story.” He wanted her to be available for him. Wow. That’s a tough one.

Miles featured his wife on four album covers but never more fetchingly than on “Someday My Prince Will Come.”  

Frances gave us a brief recap of her dance life. She only wanted to do ballet, but with few opportunities for African-Americans in the field, she instead found herself dancing with Katherine Dunham. Touring with Dunham in Paris, she appeared with the Paris Opera Ballet. 

Since arts·meme loves Miles Davis, hamburgers, Katherine Dunham, and anything that took place in Paris, don’t you think a return visit with Frances Davis is called for?

We do.


Photo credit, frances portrait: (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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