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Jamie Fox, originally from California, has performed world wide, in concert and on television, including the Montreaux Jazz Festival. He was a semifinalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Guitar competition in 1995 and lead guitarist for Blood, Sweat, & Tears (1998-2000). Jamie has worked with artists as diverse as Brother Jack Mc Duff, Dr. John, Ernie Watts, Gene Harris, Tiger Okoshi, Carla Thomas, Otis Clay and The Shirelles. He played guitar and served as Musical Director for the Joan Baez World Tour (1989-1991), filming a popular PBS television special with Baez and Jackson Browne. In addition to his own projects Jamie is a freelancer on the New York City scene and currently performs and records with singer Jen Chapin ("Linger" "Ready"), Stephan Crump ("Rosetta", "Tuckahoe") and Combo Nuvo
(Acoustic World Jazz).
"...his style is uniquely and wonderfully his own." — Bud Spangler, KCSM-FM, San Francisco
"When I Get Home," the new album by guitarist Jamie Fox, explores the idea of home: what is it, where is it, and how do we know we have found it. This energetic and sensitive collection of songs visits various landscapes in a jazz instrumental context, casting a number of moods, grooves, and feelings. "I didn't set out with a particular concept in mind for this record" says Fox, "but later recognized this emerging theme." The CD will be released September 18 on Rare Cat Records.
Working with some of the great musicians on the NYC scene -- Kenny Werner on piano, Dan Willis on sax, Stephan Crump playing bass, and Michael Sarin on drums -- Jamie has created a dynamic, subtle and richly-textured collection. "I wanted to have something a little different than the average jazz blowing session," Jamie explained. To this end, he established the guitar trio as the foundation, while also recording some tunes with saxophone and others with piano. The layers of sound added later are vital and fine-overdubbed guitar textures, and background horns played by reed and brass master Peck Allmond.
Jamie's journey from blues and rock-loving teenager in Southern California, then busy San Francisco sideman, to respected member of the New York jazz scene -- is one we can follow through his songs here. As a boy in LA, Jamie was exposed to classical and jazz on the radio and studied piano, violin, and cello ("without excelling at any of them," he confesses), until he reached that universal turning point: The Beatles, and the possibilities of rock and roll. At the urging of a guitar-playing friend, he got himself an electric bass so they could start a band. He switched to guitar and the floodgates of sound opened: in came soul, R&B, and the powerful grooves from New Orleans — the latter becoming an especially deep part of his musical identity.
Kicked off with a drum beat invoking the 60's Lee Dorsey hit "Working in A Coal Mine," Jamie's "Mine and Yours" is a testimony to Jamie's love of the great city (a devotion which eventually had its reward in a gig with Dr. John at the famous San Francisco club, "Slims") and his admiration of greats like Dorsey and Allen Toussaint. "Mine and Yours" features a cheerful melody, buoyant background horns, and a good-time, gospel-flavored solo from Kenny Werner that all follow a typical Fox song structure of unexpected twists and turns. He explains: "My tunes tend to grow organically, without a preconceived idea of form. I just try to follow where the music leads."
Meanwhile, back in the San Fernando Valley, Jamie watched the seemingly endless stretches of orange groves be gradually eaten up by more and more suburban tract houses, a loss he mourns in his "Row After Row." Similarly bittersweet is "Childhood," evoking some of the lovelier work of Keith Jarrett. In this piece, a guitar solo full of quietly intense feeling leads to a wonderful bass solo from Stephan Crump (Vijay Iyer, Mahavishnu Project), a steady musical partner of Jamie's since their meeting in 1997, shortly after Jamie's move East. (Jamie and Stephan also perform and record together with the wonderful singer and songwriter Jen Chapin, and Jamie, along with guitarist Liberty Ellman, is featured on Stephan's new release "Rosetta".)
While an early guitar teacher steered him toward jazz guitarists like Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Django Reinhart and Charlie Christian, Jamie's explorations of jazz did not blossom until his years in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, where he eventually immersed himself in African and Brazilian forms as well. It was in the latter city where he met the subject of "Five One & A Half," a lovely Bossa Nova dedicated to his lady and the home they create together. On this tune Dan Willis conjures the spirit of Stan Getz, while being completely himself on the tenor sax. "Ognat" is one of the most dramatic and original pieces on the record. Its South American flavor (try spelling the title backwards) leads to strong solos by Stephan on bass, Jamie on acoustic guitar and Kenny once again contributing a brilliant turn on piano. Then a more traditional jazz approach peeks through, in the uniquely structured "Moniker" which hints at the influence of Thelonious Monk.
While jazz was growing in importance for him, rock and blues still made up the bulk of Jamie’s work and sound in San Francisco, and he took advantage of plentiful opportunities to catch bands like The Band, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and The Grateful Dead. Thrilled by the atmosphere of a "real" city and inspired by all the sounds he was taking in, Jamie co-founded with saxophonist Ron Stallings a band called "The Blues Among Us," combining jazz with blues and R&B, juxtaposing repertoire from Ornette Coleman to Aaron Neville. Similarly in "When I Get Home," the closing and title tune hints at the feeling of the classic rock bands while keeping the elements of jazz and improvisation in the forefront. Acoustic guitar plays the melody and solo with some wonderful accompaniment from the rhythm section and Peck Allmond on trumpet and euphonium (Jamie adds: "Peck plays any instrument that he can blow into." The outro is a magnificent slow build that adds electric guitar into the mix and horns that have a Monk-like angularity as well as a feeling of spaciousness as wide as the West.
Then came the move East. As Jamie relates, "When I moved to New York in the mid nineties it was a huge change for me. Much of the music for this CD was written or finished here. "New News" is the one that directly came out of hitting NYC and getting into the amazing energy flow of music that surrounds us." Good things come to those who wait -- "All In Time" plays with the idea that everything one desires will come in time. The concept applies to the composition of the song itself. "I had the initial theme for many years, but only recently came up with the funk section that made the song complete." After an initial tempest of sound driven by Michael Sarin on drums, the first theme has the serpentine quality of a Lennie Tristano line played over a pastoral background featuring both acoustic and electric guitar. It then morphs into a section of polyphonic and dissonant lines over a funk groove - setting the mood of a party where lots of folks have something to say but everyone is grooving together. The guitar solo explores both of these moods before returning to the theme.
Jamie has played funky jazz with Hammond B3 master Brother Jack Mc Duff, horn-based rock with Blood Sweat & Tears (lead guitarist: 1998 – 2000), ballads and folk music with Joan Baez (lead guitar/musical director 1989 – 1991), and rhythm and blues backing the likes of Dr. John, Carla Thomas, and Otis Clay. He is committed to playing jazz guitar but improvising and composing in a way that brings all the places that feel like home together. Elegant jazz, youthful rock, New Orleans swamp swing, silky samba - in the end Jamie Fox just writes and performs music, music without genre or strict rules, and music with a subtlety that betrays his mastery, with history, reverence, humor, and love.
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