I am hesitant, in writing about Northern California guitarist Mimi Fox, to use the word “revelation.”
The term has grown trite from overuse, more often that not standing in as shorthand for a journalist who has run out of options in describing a particular artist. If you’re enthralled with music, you almost by definition will be wowed when you first encounter a major player. Get used to it.
That said, Mimi Fox’s artistry came as something of a revelation to me upon first viewing her “Live at the Palladium” DVD, released earlier this year.
And, in my defense, it’s not just me. Fox’s website features encomiums from the likes of Jim Hall and Joe Pass who, we can all agree, know from whence they praise. Fox is also a six-time Downbeat magazine International Critics Poll winner.
Fox is included in SFJAZZ’s guitar-studded run of shows this weekend. The lineup includes Fox Friday night at Swedish American Hall, Pat Metheny’s two shows Saturday at Marines’ Memorial Theatre and bossa nova six-stringer Vinicius Cantuária Sunday afternoon at the Legion of Honor.
Fox will be joined by Matt Clark (Hammond B-3 organ) and Akira Tana (drums). Here’s what the guitarist told me regarding her influences and approaches.
Question: The influence of jazz masters like Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass is evident in your music. Who do you see as your prime non-jazz influences?
Fox: When I was a little girl and first started playing music (drums at 9, guitar at 10), I listened to everyone I could because my family loved music and exposed me to all genres. I am a human sponge as a musician and I picked up things from watching/listening to everyone from Glen Campbell to Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein to Michael Nesmith. On guitar, my non-jazz influences included Julian Bream, Paul Simon and all funk players from the ‘70s.
Question: Discuss, if you will how, your goals when approaching an arrangement.
Fox: I always try to put my own spin on standards and that could be changing the groove, reharmonizing it or creating modern intros/endings for the piece. I hope that everything I do conveys “warmth” because without this jazz would be cerebral and cold. Without technique (“virtuosity”), all the heart in the world can’t convey intelligent ideas. They work together and inform each other.
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