David Dahoud Williams

David Dahoud Williams was the first Coda recipient.

After bassist David Dahoud Williams died in the late 1990s, he was buried in an unmarked grave in Lincoln Cemetery. Known for his incredible music skills and his generosity, the exact location of Dahoud’s final resting spot quickly became a mystery.

The Coda Jazz Fund was born in 2002 and its first mission was to honor Dahoud. Beyond his musical genius, he was known as a teacher who believed in helping young people learn the craft. He particularly liked to train young bass players.

Before he died, Dahoud willed his upright bass to a young musician who had been his student. The student did not have room or the budget to store it properly, and so the bass was kept at Watkins Brothers funeral chapel – except on nights when there were gigs.

Dahoud’s unmarked grave was brought to the attention of the Coda board by Marion Watkins, an early supporter of the foundation and owner of the funeral chapel. With Watkin’s help, the board was able to find the exact location of the grave.

It was in a heavily used part of the cemetery. However, there was not one marker on the hundreds of filled spaces. Interestingly, Dahoud’s grave is only a short distance from the final resting spot of saxophonist Charlie Parker.

On a cold spring day, a ceremony was held at Dahoud’s grave. Officiated by the Rev. Emanuel Cleaver (and now congressman), board member saxophonist Gerald Dunn and other jazz musicians placed the stone grave marker for Dahoud.

And there was music…lots of it. We’re confident that David Dahoud Williams looked down from heaven with a smile. And in the crowd that day were Dahoud’s students, happy to see that the master had received the recognition that he had long deserved.

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