Talk about a guitar feast! Fox, a fixture in L.A.'s jazz and studio scenes, goes toe to toe with two giants of those same circles, a generation his senior (John Pisano and Bob Bain), and the result is a feather in each of their impressive caps.
Bain ranks as one of the most-heard guitarists in history, for his two decades with the "Tonight Show" orchestra and sessions ranging from Billie Holiday to every Rat Pack member to Henry Mancini (that's him on the Peter Gunn theme). Here, the 85-year-old leaves no doubt that he can still stir up plenty of dust.
At merely 78, Pisano's resume extends from his '50s collaborations with the legendary Billy Bean and a stint with Chico Hamilton to his dozen albums backing Joe Pass and six years hosting the weekly Guitar Night at Spazio's in L.A.
Fox, a veritable pup at 54, is fast building his own resume, which already runs the gamut from Bette Midler to symphony orchestras, from Rod Stewart to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.
As if the guitar threesome weren't enough, the fourth member of the quartet is A-list upright bassist Chuck Berghofer, and tweaking the faders is Al Schmitt, the 17- time Grammy winning engineer behind such classics as Aja and Breezin'.
“Fascinating Rhythm" proves a perfect, energetic opener, with the three guitarists harmonizing the theme, then trading solos, displaying very different approaches to the Gershwin standard -- Pisano's bounciness, Bain a little greasier (with some funky double stop bends), and Fox more cerebral. Each sports a very different tone, but all strike a welcome balance between warm lows and round, defined highs - with Schmitt ensuring an intimate, in-the-room feel.
The 10 cuts are split evenly between quartet arrangements and impressive solo showcases for Fox. Either way, jazz guitar at its best.
Dan Forte - Vintage Guitar Magazine (Sep, 2009)
Jim Fox, superb California guitarist, has once again given us a CD that is melodic, tasteful and a joy to listen to. Jim, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music has performed with artists such as Bette Midler. Barry Manilow, Michael Feinstein and too many others to list here. His work may also be heard on numerous TV shows such as Cheers, Wings, Married With Children and The Tonight Show.
On this recording, he is joined by two well known guitarists; Bob Bain and John Pisano and the superb bassist Chuck Berghofer. There are 10 cuts ranging from Fascinating Rhythm, Crazy Rhythm, Aparecida and solo versions of Neal Hefti's standard Li'l Darlin’, In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning and Love Walked In. For the guitar aficionados he's playing a Stephen Gilchrist blonde archtop. on many of the cuts and a 1961 Gibson L5N on one. He also plays a Greg Brandt classical on his version of Tristeza and Aparecida.
It's obvious that all three have played together many times before as the interplay between them is flawless. They mix it up by playing in various settings - quartets, trios, duos and solo. The liner notes tell who played what and when -a nice touch. A terrific CD by some of the best in the business.
Ed Benson, Publisher/Editor - Just Jazz Guitar Magazine (May, 2009)
Having had the great pleasure of meeting (and jamming with) LA based Jim Fox some years back, it was a treat to receive his latest CD for review recently. Jim is a big fan of archtop guitars and Australian ones at that (made by Steve Gilchrist in Victoria) An earlier solo release of Jim's entitled 'Sunburst' referenced one of his Gilchrist beauties, so no prize for guessing that this album title refers to a guitar! This time out, Jim has included five solo tracks and on the rest he is joined by good friends Bob Bain, John Pisano and Chuck Berghofer, all wonderful players in their own right. The solo pieces show Jim at his impeccable best, with subtle reharmonisations, great 'time' and the gorgeous sound of these archtops (on one tune, Jim uses a 1961 Gibson L5N) recorded in all their acoustic glory by the legendary AI Schmitt. In the ensemble arrangements each player solos or blends when required in tightly arranged passages and the playing from everyone swings superbly. Both Bob Bain and John Pisano make masterful contributions to the album, and the ensemble is anchored by the bass players bass player Chuck Berghofer. This CD is a master class for any guitarist studying the Holy Grails of Tone, Time and Taste! (check out the 'feel' on Girl Talk!) It should be available online (CD Baby etc,) or try Jim's website www.jimfoxguitar.com R W.
Ray Walker - The Jazz Society Of Western Australia (Apr, 2009)
Solo CD by Jim Fox. Three tunes on nylon guitar and the rest on archtop guitar. Obviously a very established and talented player. He sounds comfortable playing solo. Eleven beautiful standards and one original. The original, “The Man Who Was Magic,” on nylon string, is a lovely Folk type tune. Jim brings a fresh approach to soloing. Although some references to Joe Pass on occasion, it’s still very much his own. If I’m not mistaken, the archtop is tuned down. The only thing I would say is how come he’s not better known!
Jack Wilkins - Just Jazz Guitar Magazine (Mar, 2005)
Jim Fox is perhaps not yet well known to many club-attending fans. The majority of his playing is in non-club situations, although this night he particularly enjoyed the intimacy and instant feedback of the audience at Spazio’s in Sherman Oaks. Fox, however, is well known and appreciated by other jazz guitarists, as evidenced by the large number of significant Southern California players there to hear him featured in this quartet. Playing with him were John Pisano, also on guitar, with Dave Stone on bass and Steve Barnes on drums.
Program tunes included a swinging “Savoy,” “Rosetta,” Oscar Peterson’s “Cool Walk,” with Fox using finger style arpeggios and Barnes showing how musically drums could be played; and an effervescent guitar duet of “Just Friends.” A slowed pace on “Nuages” enhanced the beauty of this gem, with Fox adding a European flavor by use of tremolos. Fox and Pisano had back-and-forth fun on “Have You Met Miss Jones” with a bit of dueling guitars type quick response challenges to each other.
Right hand playing technique changed at times mid-tune, with Fox varying between strictly pick; pick plus right hand fingers, and finger style, to accomplish his desired result. His amplified guitar had unique sound, with a rich acoustic guitar over-sound resonating through. The guitar Fox played was a cut-away Gilchrist, a label unfamiliar to me. Built by Stephen Gilchrist in Australia, the archtop was positively gorgeous, and outstanding to play, per Fox.
In addition to his usual superb guitar work, John Pisano served as musical host, setting a creatively encouraging space for bass and drums to also have their moments. Bassist Dave Stone, if you’ll pardon the bad pun, is solid as a rock. Stone is always there and always contributing and strongly supporting the headliners. New to Southern California, drummer Steve Barnes set up the smaller drums of his kit in an unusual side by side flat pattern, occasionally laying down sticks and brushes to use fingertips only, where soft rhythm was wanted. His animated style and presence quickly won over this jazz guitar crowd.
There was a lot going on musically. I found I was micro-listening to the guitarists, trying to tune in and follow the numerous exquisite variations and innovations, rather than fully hearing the tunes as a whole. Then, moving from the swinging to the sublime, Fox played a mellow “My One And Only Love” in a wonderful lush arrangement that was the stunning beauty of the night.
It’s a good thing Spazio management doesn’t realize how much fun these musicians have, playing on John Pisano’s night to host. They were playing hard, but having too much enjoyment to call it the ‘work’ it really was. As the evening grew late, the Spazio customers there mostly for the fine food and drink had left, leaving a core of appreciative fans and musicians to listen and cheer on Jim Fox and John Pisano, two great jazz guitarists.
For information on Spazio, go to their website www.spazio.la or call 818-728-8400.
Harvey Barkan - L.A. Jazz Scene (Jan, 2003)
The music contained in this CD, Sunburst, is so richly melodic and full, it’s amazing to realize what you’re hearing is just one solo jazz guitarist. This remarkable musician is Southern California’s own Jim Fox, possibly the best guitarist you didn’t know you’ve heard before! He is a first call musician kept busy with studio work, recordings, and television shows, as well as support for major vocalists in concert venues. However, the personable Fox also enjoys the intimacy and responsiveness of local club venues, and tries to schedule some in the San Fernando Valley and Ventura areas, as his active schedule permits.
Fox conveys warmth and beauty with a gentle feel of swing. At times the music sounds deceptively easy, but listenability and clarity shouldn’t be confused with simplicity. Listen closely to the simultaneous melody, harmonics, and bass string lines, played with intricate technique. Simple it is not! Fox goes beyond physical mastery of the guitar with insightful interpretations enhancing familiar standards of “the American legacy of the twentieth century” by Jimmy Van Heusen, George and Ira Gershwin, Sammy Cahn, Johnny Mercer and others. The versatile Fox used a nylon string classical guitar on “Cry Me A River,” “All The Way,” and “The Man Who Was Magic.” The other tunes played on archtop guitar are, “The Masquerade Is Over,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “Alone Together,” “How Long Has This Been Going On,” “Like Someone In Love,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” “My One And Only Love,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” and “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” For an explanation to musicians, audiophiles, and other interested listeners, on the incredible sound of the guitars, Fox explains, “For the three songs I played on the Greg Brandt classical guitar, Al (recording/producing legend Al Schmitt) mic’d the instrument in stereo, as well as the room, so we had four channels of live guitar. For the Steve Gilchrist archtop guitar (used for all other tunes), he added a mic for the amplifier, giving us five channels. Al continued his magic by mixing these tracks into a warm balance.” More recording information and acknowledgements are available on the Jim Fox website, www.jimfoxguitar.com.
The beauty is just astounding, with listening interest kept strong by the remarkable artistry, technique, and individual musical thoughts expressed on each of these 12 very different tunes played solo by Jim Fox. I whole-heartedly recommend this outstanding CD.
For purchase information, contact www.cdbaby.com.
Harvey Barkan - Just Jazz Guitar Magazine (Mar, 2005)
Jim Fox, certainly one of the best guitarists in the business today, is a humble sort, never ostentatious about his talent, who fits nicely into the rhythm section of the Frank Sinatra Jr. band, which he has been with for some time now. Locally, he can be seen on occasion at Spazio in Sherman Oaks, or at Galletto Bar & Grill in Westlake Village, where he plays with The Flying Pisanos. Now, for those of you who appreciate the art of playing fine guitar, he has come out with a CD, Sunburst (www.jimfoxguitar.com). Fox manages to produce an orchestral sound with his instrument, as can be done with the piano, and this is evidenced in the first of the twelve tunes on the CD. “Cry Me A River.” Unaccompanied, he holds the listeners’ interest throughout with familiar selections from over the years, songs such as “The Masquerade Is Over,” “Teach Me Tonight,” “Alone Together,” “Like Someone In Love” and more, concluding with “Come Rain Or Come Shine.”
Referring to rock music in general, Frank Sinatra Jr., who did the liner notes for the CD, said, “In this melee of tortured non-musical noise, the most totally and frequently maligned of all the instruments is the guitar, with the bombastic assistance of electric amplifiers and, in most cases, no smattering of musical talent to impede the cacophony, the very meaning of the instruments has been lost.” He adds that, “The guitar is first and formost intended to be romantic.” Jim Fox more than meets those expectations in this excellent solo effort.
Bob Agnew - L.A. Jazz Scene (Nov, 2004)
No less a musical icon than Frank Sinatra Jr. wrote some key liner notes for this 2004 CD release from California-based jazz guitar ace Jim Fox. Describing the recently released Sunburst, Sinatra adds,” If you find yourself in a quiet mood and a relaxing place, put this album on and rejoice in the hands of a true musician.” For fans of traditional jazz guitar sounds, it doesn’t get any better than the solo jazz guitar sounds on Sunburst. Aficionados know these songs inside and out and fittingly, Fox does justice to standards such as “Cry Me A River”, “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, “Come Rain Or Come Shine” and nine other unforgettable song classics. Sinatra’s notes put the finishing touches on a CD sure to become a modern jazz guitar classic. www.jimfoxguitar.com.
Robert Silverstein - Twentieth Century Guitar Magazine (Mar, 2005)