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Jamie Fox: Press

Here's an interview that I did with David Miller of All About Jazz. (I had no idea I say the word "stuff" so much-sorry about that!).
Jamie Fox
When I Get Home
(Rare Cat)

Jamie Fox is a very original musician. His guitar tone is dry but
flexible, his writing contains unusual structures and a mixture of
light funk and straightahead sections, and he stands out in a
crowd. While his music at various times recalls Keith Jarrett in the
1970s, Pat Metheny and possible Kenny Wheeler and Ralph
Towner, Fox has his own fresh conception of jazz improvisation,
using melodic development in unexpected ways. His quiet solos
and that of his sidemen are natural extensions of his songs’
themes.
On When I Get Home, Fox performs ten of his originals with such
musicians as pianist Kenny Werner, saxophonist Dan Willis,
bassist Stephan Crump, drummer Michael Sarin and occasionally
Peck Almond (on saxophones and trumpet). The tunes are
upbeat and likable without every being predictable. The little
surprises keep one guessing and, while Fox’s style is open to folk
music, tangos and the lyrical side of rock, the end results sound
natural and distinctive.
This is a subtle set that will grow in interest with each listening,
available from www.jamiefoxguitar.com.
When I Get Home
Jamie Fox | RareCatRecords (2007)
By Mark F. Turner


"There are many musicians flying under the radar of the limelight who are just as masterful as those receiving more notoriety. Having played in various bands, some notable (singer Joan Baez, Blood Sweat and Tears), some eclectic (Combo Nuvo), and a memorable contribution to jazz bassist Stephan Crump’s Rosetta (Papillon Sounds, 2006), its clear that guitarist Jamie Fox is one such player. Impeccable chops, a seasoned and modern sound, when you hear him play, there’s something special, as heard on When I Get Home.

There’s a sense of the storyteller who captivates his audience with interesting anecdotes and thoughtful tales, centered around exquisitely performed music by Fox and his adroit band members, including veteran pianist Kenny Werner. Like the title implies, the music has a welcoming invitation—the overall mood is calming yet without saccharin in its delivery—of familiar surroundings and fond memories.

Listening to the recording is like opening up Pandora’s box (but in a good way) and finding a few surprises. The deceptive samba-like ease of “Five One & A Half” is pleasant, but the twist comes in a stellar solo by Fox and the band’s tight delivery, elevating things beyond typical elevator music. Next comes the earthy rural-esque “Row After Row,” with Crump's resonant bass and Fox strumming tranquil chords, with gentle traps by drummer Michael Sarin. “All In Time” has an interesting melody and clever guitar/sax/clarinet arrangement, the melody moving from a leisurely walk into a funky stroll, showing that things are just a little different in Fox’s neck of the woods.

Whether it’s laidback licks on “Leisure” or the eccentric tango-ish “Ognat,” Fox’s playing is immaculate. Fine performances by everyone, a touch of Americana mixed with inventiveness, all make this a recording that fits comfortably traveling on the road or in the confines of your home."
"Elegant is not a word used very often to describe guitarists, but it fits Jamie Fox like a glove-an expensive driving glove. "Stylishly graceful, and showing sophistication and good taste" could easily refer to the music as a whole. "Executed, or made with a combination of skill ease and grace" might well be talking about the man's considerable, but never flashy chops, as he negotiates the tricky turns of the opening tune, "Five One & A Half."

And "satisfyingly and often ingeniously neat and simple" perfectly limns compositions such as "Ognat," a tango in reverse (check the title). Or "Mine & Yours," with its deceptively basic melody that changes in odd places, and its bars of two that never upset the lyrical flow. These are not easy tunes over which to solo, but Fox and pianist Kenny Werner make it sound as if they are barely breaking a sweat. Elegant indeed."
- Michael Ross
What an admirable musician! A veritable revelation for me, Jamie Fox is one of the finest guitarists currently active. Formed of a good school (Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, not to mention “our” Django Reinhardt), he’s forged an irresistibly seductive personal style. We’ll savor the inventiveness and harmonic richness of his improvisations, always rigorously constructed. His elegant and thoroughbred melodic discourse, powerful vector of emotion, is never sacrificed for facility; and it’s a true feast to hear him throughout the entire repertoire, of which he is also the author, and which bares evidence to his real gifts as composer. On the magnificent theme Five One & A Half, his perfectly rendered octave play evokes the great Wes Montgomery. He surrounded himself with top-flight partners (special mention to the fine pianist Kenny Werner and saxophonist Dan Willis, often close to Stan Getz), all irreproachable soloists and accompanists, with whom he finds himself in total osmosis. This is a disc to enthusiastically acquire without hesitation.
Claude Oberg - Dictionnaire du Jazz (Jan 1, 2008)
"Jazz guitarist Jamie Fox reflects the true spirit of jazz, even down to how he sets the tone of his guitar. His sound output almost commands you to listen, etc. Fox's melodic and linear innovations & improvisations are important in that he seems to free himself from the more mundane occurrences of bebop changes & bar lengths. Jamie seems to reach for the more individual approach, & succeeds in doing so in my humble opinion.

Eclectic & witty, Jamie is definitely a classicist & inveterate romantic in a jazz world. I predict Jamie to become & remain an important unique sounding jazz guitarist whose distinctive soul can cut through any 'blowing' with his subtle musical curves & whispered nuances."
Guitarist Jamie Fox, not to be confused with
the movie actor Jamie Foxx, has had a diverse career,
performing with artists as different as Carla Thomas,
Joan Baez and Blood, Sweat and Tears. However, his
new album, When I Get Home, is jazz all the way.
This album, featuring ten Fox originals, is a laid-back
record that has an instantly appealing charm to it.
“Five One & A Half ” starts the album and features
a groove with an underlying Latin feel. While the
saxophone states the melody at the outset, Fox takes
control with the first solo in the piece. While drummer
Michael Sarin and bassist Stephan Crump are
content to provide the rhythmic foundation and stay
in the background on this piece, they have great interaction
with Fox on “Row After Row.” The chemistry
between these three musicians reminds me of the
musical rapport between Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen
and Tony Scherr. The direction that some of
these songs take bolsters that perception.
While the tone quality isn’t close to Frisell’s,
many of Fox’s compositional and solo directions exist
in the same realm. “All In Time” has a slightly
quirky melody that features saxophone and guitar in
tandem. Crump and Sarin take things in a slightly
funky direction later in this piece and things become
event more fun when saxophone and guitar intertwine
to create some solo madness toward the end of
the song.
“Moniker” is a showcase for saxophone and guitar.
The saxophone solo is bright and jaunty in feel
and Fox follows with a solo that fits well within this
context, but provides enough contrast to keep things
interesting. “Ognat” has a jazz-meets-tango sound
and features some great soloing from Crump, Fox
and Werner. “Leisure” lives up to its title and is one
of the most peaceful pieces on this album. Stephan
Crump’s bass, moving between bouncy half notes
and a lightly Samba-inflected groove, controls the
feel on “Mine & Yours.” Werner’s piano and Fox’s
guitar have a nice blend on this track. Werner’s bluesy
touch gives off the perfect feel during his outstanding
solo here. Background horn figures help to give
the piece some added energy and contribute to what
is one of the best pieces on the album. Sarin moves
to brushes for the wistful “Childhood.” This song,
one of several on the album that only uses the core
trio, is a beautiful ballad that tugs at the heartstrings.
“New News” has a strong swing feel for the majority
of the tune and starts off with bass and drums establishing
the groove. Saxophone and guitar work their
way through the melody and Fox takes the first solo
on this piece. While the groove occasionally moves
in different directions and takes on new ideas, Sarin
and Crump always move back toward the swing pulse
and help the soloists achieve their musical objectives.
The saxophonist on the majority of this material,
who I’m going to assume is Dan Willis, deserves
credit for putting his own stamp on the material and
contributing some intriguing solo work. My previous
remarks about similarities to Bill Frisell’s material
might simply be a case of both artists embracing a
certain Americana-influenced music, clearly demonstrated
on the title track which closes the album. This
piece could have easily floated off of Frisell’s Nashville
album and it is just as appealing and engrossing
as anything from that record. Peck Almond and
Dan Willis provide horn work on this track, which
helps fill out the harmony and gives the piece a much
thicker texture. “When I Get Home” is a joyous track
that closes an absorbing album by a guitarist who is
clearly deserving of greater recognition.

©2007 Cadence Jazz Magazine
Guitarist Jamie Fox has crafted a recording of modern jazz with mainstream flashes and contemporary fusion flair. In tandem with tenor saxophonist Dan Willis, Fox plays upon and executes music derived from the style John Scofield and Joe Lovano created in the mid-80s, as represented on the Blue Note label efforts Meant To Be, Time On My Hands and What We Do. In addition to Willis, Fox employs the rising star bassist Stephan Crump, veteran pianist Kenny Werner and drummer Michael Sarin. This band can do very little wrong. All of these tracks are written by Fox, with the quirky "New News" the highlight, the bluesy "Moniker," bass led lazy wonder of "Childhood" and playful "Mine & Yours," with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Peck Allmond most reflecting the Scofield-Lovano affiliation. A free intro tacked onto the neo-bop tune "All In Time" recalls Michael Brecker's '80-'81 album. A cowboy twang ala Bill Frisell takes Fox into a different realm on the loping title track, helped by Allmond's trumpet, as does the soulful "Row After Row," an easy laid back piece combining Frisell with sky-church Pat Metheny. At its wittiest, even cute, there's the backwards tango "Ognat," while "Five & One-Half" is a breezy light bossa unison melody, showing Willis and Fox most clearly on the same page. This is a sleeper; a very good effort that, while somewhat revelatory in its voicings and compositional derivations, still yields a fresh contemporary approach to modern jazz that should appeal to many.
"The first thing you notice about Jamie Fox's fine release is the mastery he has of various forms of jazz. The playing and compositions are subtle, but always easy to grasp. Chops are not an issue in translating the tunes, and the supporting cast, with the likes of Kenny Werner on piano and Dan Willis on saxophone, are perfect."
John Heidt - Vintage Guitar magazine (Apr 1, 2008)
With his focus on smooth melodies and graceful rhythms, guitarist Jamie Fox brings us a comfortable ride that honors the impact of great jazz melody-makers such as Joe Pass, Charlie Byrd, Jim Hall, Pat Metheny and George Benson. Interpreting ten original songs with his core trio and added guests, Fox creates impressions as varied as tango and modern jazz. Originally from Southern California, the guitarist identifies with a smooth West Coast sound on this session that provides impressions of Santa Barbara and San Francisco. Along with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Michael Sarin, Fox lets his melodies flow casually. Tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, trumpet, euphonium and piano—guests Dan Willis, Peck Allmond and Kenny Werner—enter the picture for selected songs, giving the mix a relaxed harmonic texture along with its easygoing rhythms.

As a semifinalist in the 1995 Thelonious Monk International Jazz competition, Fox found common threads between his artistic goals and those of other professional artists. He served as musical director for Joan Baez from 1989-91, guitarist for Blood, Sweat & Tears from 1998-2000 and currently records and performs with singer Jen Chapin as well as the acoustic band Combo Nuvo. Both his “Moniker” and “New News” represent hard-driving, in-your-face, modern jazz, while ballads such as “Five One & a Half” and “Childhood” represent gentler family values. The album’s title track travels in a different direction that follows rolling hills and grassy meadows toward a familiar melodic destination. The horn mix interrupts Fox’ tranquil trio picnic, however, with several pesky asides that change the mood adversely.

The guitarist and his trio provide a beautiful lyrical flow for most of When I Get Home. Adding guests on occasion for textural change in several places, however, causes radical changes that interrupt the logical flow of the session.
These days it’s all too easy to hear the reference points for younger guitarists. Metheny, Frisell, Scofield… it’s hard to find up-and-coming players who haven’t been touched by at least one of these benchmarks, and Jamie Fox is no different on his debut as a leader, When I Get Home. Still, one would be hard-pressed to find any artist who hasn’t some frame of reference in other artists past or present. The question is: what are they doing with it?

It would be too easy to dismiss tracks like “Five and One Half,” with its light Latin tinge, or the Midwestern ambience of “Row After Row,” as Metheny-esque, especially with Fox’s choice of a warm, hollow body electric tone. And while he chooses a steel-string acoustic for the ambling title track, the horn arrangements—played by Dan Willis and Peck Almond—feel like something straight out of John Scofield’s Quiet (Verve, 1996) or This Meets That (Emarcy, 2007), despite the latter disc being recorded well after When I Get Home was in the can.

Other tracks reveal a broader mindset. “All in Time” opens as turbulent rubato, with bassist Stephan Crump—on whose Rosetta (Papillon Sounds, 2006) Fox played—and drummer Michael Sarin seamlessly moving through an episodic composition that turns to gentle pulse and, ultimately, more visceral funk. The groove may be undeniable, but as Fox and Willis create complex counterpoint the guitarist’s expansive personality shines through. He may wax lyrical like Metheny, but he’s no clone; navigating the changes with an ease that belies an under-the-hood harmonic complexity.

“Moniker” swings lightly, bringing to mind some of Scofield’s mid-1990s Blue Note discs with Joe Lovano; Dan Willis’ dexterous tenor completing the reference. Fox’s solo cleverly combines rich chordal passages with blues and bop-inflected lines that manage to combine the best of his stylistic references into something different. It’s that ability to wear his influences on his sleeve without losing sight of who he is that makes Fox a guitarist worth watching. And when he moves into tango territory on “Ognat,” he completely distances himself, as he does on the elegant bossa-meets-Americana of “Leisure,” where his solo is the definition of economy and unremitting invention.

Throughout, Crump and Sarin are ideal accompanists, with Crump delivering a number of memorable solos. Willis and Almond join in on a few tracks, as does pianist Kenny Werner, who contributes some characteristically in-the-pocket support and graceful soloing on the harmonically deceptive yet accessible “Mine & Yours.”

But it’s the trio tracks, including the soft ballad “Childhood,” where Fox is at his best, specifically because he’s on his own to create an expansive soundscape that’s as much about space and sustain as it is lithe playing. It’s one of a number of understated moments on When I Get Home, a debut that may not make its statement with power and chops (despite the certainty that Fox possesses both), but continues to reveal greater depth with each successive listen.
Guitarist/Composer Jamie Fox has plenty of experience to bring to his debut album as a leader. The Californian has been the musical director for Joan Baez for a three-year tour, played lead guitar for Blood Sweat & Tears, and worked for artists including Dr. John, Carla Thomas and Otis Clay. Fox, it seems, wants to bring as many influences as possible to this album so that it is not just your average blowing session.

The ensemble that Fox has assembled does have a rather unusual front line, shared by saxophonist Dan Willis along with pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Stephan Crump, drummer Michael Sarin and reed/horn multi-instrumentalist Peck Allmond.

True to his word, Fox does keep his listeners on their toes. The closing track, the title tune, is played on an acoustic guitar in an Americana-type setting. Without the occasional hint of a Willis saxophone or Crump bass, this could be lifted from the latest Leo Kottke album or from one of Bill Frisell's countrified guitar albums like Nashville (Nonesuch, 1997).

Likewise, the opening tracks “Five One & A Half,” otherwise a rather pleasant bossa nova-influenced tune, and “Row After Row” reveal a guitarist who knows his Pat Metheny balladry, with clear and round notes.

On “All in Time,” reflection turns into funk as Fox kicks in a harder edge. Beginning with “Ognat,” Fox seems to play more concisely and with a surer style. His solo on this tango composition is more decisive and fine. The tunes that follow—”Leisure” and “Mine and Yours”—also take advantage of a keener sense of dynamics, and both “Moniker” and “New News” turn the heat up a little more in terms of a jazz guitar exposition.

A few of the tunes feature an intriguing arrangement for horns and guitar used in counterpoint, and hearing more of them would have been interesting, but undoubtedly would have sacrificed some of the other moods that Fox wanted on display.

There are several solos from Crump, Werner and Willis. In addition to this album, Fox works with bassist Crump and his wife, Jen Chapin, on their individual albums. When I Get Home offers a multi-faceted picture of a guitarist who has a lot to share.
Prior to receiving “When I Get Home”, I had heard guitarist Jamie Fox on only one other recording – Stephan Crump’s “Rosetta”, one of 2007’s best releases in jazz or any other genre. For this, his debut as a bandleader, Fox is backed by an accomplished ensemble that includes star pianist Kenny Werner and drummer Michael Sarin, in addition to Crump’s warm, supple bass. Like ‘Rosetta’, the mood is genial, folksy, and relaxed, replete with moderate-to-slow tempos and lyrical melodies that tend to linger in one’s mind. Fox’ music shows few of the avant-garde tendencies that Crump's does. The music on "When I Get Home" is mellow and thoughtful, with carefully worked surfaces. Its curiously laid-back atmosphere tends to conceal the really interesting aspects of Fox' compositions and the improvisations that grow within them. The result is a CD that may pass unnoticed if you don’t give it your full attention, or at least several listens.

As a guitar soloist, Fox is definitely not a ‘flurry of notes’ or ‘lightning fast chromatic runs’ guy. His clean, effects-free sound, and patient, blues-soaked improvisations bring greats such as Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and T-Bone Walker to mind. His wry humor and penchant for odd phrases bring Jim Hall’s work to mind, as well as Bill Frisell’s less-abstract, less-quirky persona. Other aspects of Fox’s playing suggest considerable experience playing blues, rock, folk, and country music.

None of Fox’ compositions seem to come from the straight ahead jazz world, though a few ('Five One & A Half', ‘Row After Row’, ‘Moniker’) are relatively simple head-solos-head vehicles that employ samba-like or rock-like rhythms. On other tracks, Fox artfully combines seemingly unrelated compositional motifs to subvert the initial direction of a piece into new and unexpected places. For example, the chorale-like rubato opening section of ‘All In Time’ suggests a Charlie Haden anthem, or perhaps an Ornette-inspired lamentation. A second melody is then introduced over a lazy samba-like rhythm and, as the rhythm shifts to a slinky funk feel, shards of both melodies are restated simultaneously by reeds and guitar. ‘Ognat’, a minor-keyed tango turned on its head, lacks only a bandoneon to complete its smoky, sultry ambience. 'New News' is a sharp-witted Monk / Ornette inspired piece that ramps up the tempo and tension level slightly. The spare, bluesy, gently resigned tone of two guitar – bass – drums trios (‘Leisure’ and ‘Childhood’) come from the same sort of weathered bare-wood, rustic spaces that several of Crump’s pieces from ‘Rosetta’ inhabited.

“When I Get Home” is a very pleasant set of originals – almost too pleasant for its own good. With gentle rhythms and appealing, mellow textures, Fox’ music gently insinuates itself on the listener – never clamoring for attention. The important thing is not to let “When I Get Home” slip into the background, where it would be dismissed as yet another merely pretty CD. It may take a few listens for even seasoned music fans to recognize the musical riches therein, but it will be time well-spent.