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Jim Fox: My Comments

Recording - March 15, 2009

My first CD released in 2004, “Sunburst,” was a solo project. The main instrument used on the recording was a sunburst colored guitar built by Stephen Gilchrist. Selecting a title was easy, as the instrument proved to be a joy to play. Since I also have a blonde one, which got a lot of use on the new CD, “Natural Blonde,” I kept the title concept going and there you have it. Bob Bain, who not only performed on the CD, but arranged two of the selections, played the blonde on a couple, as well. John Pisano used the same guitar on, “Fascinating Rhythm,” so we all played it somewhere on the recording.

For me, the music is first. The great composers of popular music in Western culture are the driving force. Many of these great songs were introduced in Broadway shows or Hollywood movies. Later interpreted by singers and jazz musicians, their beauty has been exploited in many styles. I have the pleasant privilege of standing on the shoulders of these giants.

For this reason (the music being most important) I did not discuss ‘gear’ on the first CD. In our modern era, often the brand/model of an instrument, amplifier, or other material element becomes the focal point to the compromise of the music itself. Great equipment can enhance a musical performance, but some of the greatest performances were produced on below average gear.

So why mention guitars now? Two reasons:
1) Both Stephen Gilchrist and Greg Brandt deserve the recognition for their artistry, dedication and pure talent.
2) The guitarists are curious. Many ask about the instrument(s) I play.

In the studios, shows, concerts and clubs, all three of us have played quite a variety of instruments, and so many guitars have beautiful tone and merit. It is neither a contest nor a test of loyalty, which instruments we play. Often, our favorite will stay at home out of harm’s way. The airlines, weather, or simple logistics can make it more convenient to play one instrument over another. Can you imagine the challenges associated with carrying a Stradivarius cello by commercial airline?

The idea bringing Bob, John and Chuck Berghofer together grew from our mutual friendship and history of playing together in various settings. Bob Bain, one of the most recorded guitarists in history, has been my duo partner for about ten years, John Pisano has generously included me as guest at his renowned weekly, “Guitar Night,” many times over the years, and Chuck Berghofer just seems to be everywhere all the time.

These are three gentle giants who don’t spend their precious spare time recounting their incredible résumés, but for the record, Bob has been the remarkable first call for the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, John Green, and Doc Severensen, to name a few. John Pisano has held company with Chico Hamilton, Peggy Lee, Natalie Cole, Dianna Krall, Johnny Mandell, as well as holding court as duo partner and accompanist for fellow guitarist Joe Pass. It has been a rewarding experience working with John and Jeanne Pisano, “The Flying Pisanos,” and playing on their CD, “Lazy Afternoon.” Chuck Berghofer has recorded with Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Ella, Barbara Streisand, Elvis Presley, Joni Mitchell, countless jazz luminaries including Howard Roberts, Dianna Krall, Pete Jolly, and on and on. These three résumés would involve many single spaced pages of names, TV shows, movies and live appearances. The experience, talent and maturity they brought to my project are simply immeasurable.

Next, Al Schmitt, Steve Genewick, Bill Smith, Doug Sax and Sunny Nam handled recording, mixing and post production. They are all stars in their respective fields and I was lucky to have their important contributions. To capture and reproduce the sound faithfully to its original performance is a huge challenge often overlooked. Not this time.

Finally, the presentation was spearheaded by the talented Meg Zivahl-Fox, my wife. She is a first rate violinist and visual artist. She combined my passion for the guitar with her great eye for color, composition and collage creating a beautiful package. The cover art began with Meg drawing in her sketchpad at Capitol. Her dedication and support have seen this project through from the beginning. Bob Barry, jazzographer, has been visually documenting Guitar Night and other music performance for many years, and I was fortunate to have him at Capitol studios that day to capture the spirit.

The choice of songs was fairly easy. They represent parts of the repertoire we were playing at that time. There are two quartets, two trios, one duo and five solos. Bob Bain supervised the whole thing, listening to every note along with Meg in the booth, both helping me with acute and objective ears.

The liner notes are simply a guide to who played what, when.

It has been a labor of love and I am proud of my dear friends and colleagues involved.

My "Sunburst" Production Story - November, 2004

In making my CD, “Sunburst,“ I wanted to play solo, as I often do in my home and in club or concert venues. In this day and age of multitracking, ‘punching-in‘, overdubbing, etc., I wanted to simply play and document my personal arrangements of some favorite songs.

To accomplish this, I asked some special people if they could work with me. The first was Bob Bain, a longtime giant in our industry, having been ‘first call’ guitarist for such luminaries as Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and so many others. Most of us saw Bob with The Tonight Show Orchestra for some twenty-three years. He was a staff arranger at Capitol Records, as well. Putting this all together along with our close friendship made his participation most rewarding. The second was recording/producing legend, Al Schmitt. I have done a number of sessions over the years with Al, and he was most generous in agreeing to help out.

Al’s knowledge is without limit, and he got a wonderful sound on the guitars. For the three songs I played on the Greg Brandt classical guitar, he mic’d the instrument in stereo, as well as the room, so we had four channels of live guitar. For the Steve Gilchrist archtop, he added a mic for the amplifier, giving us five channels. Al continued his magic, mixing these tracks into a lovely warm balance.

On Al’s recommendation, I took the two track mixes to Doug Sax at the Mastering Lab, who put the final touches on the project with Robert Hadley.

Finally, Meg Zivahl-Fox used her magic to visually combine the archtop guitar with one of her digital tapestries, for the cover design, capturing the warmth and color Al created in Capitol Studio B. Meg happens to be my wife, and her beautiful art brings a special sense of pride for me, in this album.

The choice of material was easy. These are some of my favorite songs, plus one original, “The Man Who Was Magic.” All of the selections are played ‘in time’, with the exception of, “My One And Only Love,” which is played mostly in tempo. The standards represented herein are a part of our American artistic legacy of the Twentieth Century. I’m not sure we will see this kind of depth in the popular song form for many years. This body of work from Broadway Shows, Tin Pan Alley, motion pictures, and records is a remarkable accomplishment, by some great composers. All in all, this is what I love to do and I hope you enjoy it.


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