Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Rodger Fox has managed to do the unthinkable and what some might have said was impossible. For 40 years he has kept a big band viable in a small country. And along the way he has taken various versions of the band on overseas tours and brought in big names from the States to perform with his players in New Zealand.
His bands have also recorded -- and he has a catalogue of releases under his own name -- and as a teacher he has passed on his skills to new generations of jazz musicians coming through.
The most recent album with his Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra is The Capitol Sessions (on the Rattle Jazz ia imprint) and finds them at home on swing, jump jive, ballads, a cover of Sharon O'Neill's pop hit Maxine and stretching out in a salute to Jimi Hendrix.
It is typical of Fox: ambitious.
So it is no suprise then that Fox has arranged something special for his 40th anniversary . . . a concert tour for his Wellngton Jazz Orchestra with guests from the States: the great Joey DeFrancesco (acclaimed organist who has topped Downbeat's best organist poll for the past decade, been in bands with John McLaughlin), singer Brenda Boykin (seen previously on the World Blues Revue tour) and guitarist Mike Stern (Blood Sweat and Tears, Miles Davis etc).
Concert dates are below, but before then Rodger Fox answers our Jazz Questionnaire.
The first piece of music, jazz or otherwise, which really affected you was . . ?
Man!!! It was Woody Herman Big Band 1963 Live recording – which had the great Phil Wilson – Trombone, Sal Nestico – Tenor Saxophone, Bill Chase on Trumpet and Jake Hanna on Drum….just a killing band and one that has been the bench mark band for me to work on.
When did you first realise this jazz thing was for you?
1971 when I joined Quincy Converse – and played this music for a living……just got me.
What one piece of music would you play to a 15-year old into rock music to show them, 'This is jazz, and this is how it works'?
Caldonia – Woody Herman chart 1963 live recording – such fire in there playing always gets people on board with the power of the band.
Time travel allows you go back to experience great jazz. You would go to . . ?
Not sure if I would want to go back – quite happy listening to it and trying to develop it for 2013
Which period of Miles Davis' career do you most relate to, and why: the acoustic Fifties; his orchestrated albums with Gil Evans; the fusion of the late Sixties; street funk of the Seventies or the Tutu album and beyond in the Eighties . . .
I prefer the 50’s straight ahead Miles and the Gil Evans period – the street funk material material for me was cover well by other artists.
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?
Jazz Bagpipes – Rufus Harley – wild concept – wild man… and these recording were released on a major label Atlantic….
The best book on the jazz life you have read is . . .
Woody Herman Bio….. great book as it has question and answers from Woody and then the same questions is asked of the musician Woody was talking about…….gives a really sense of what life was like on the road for 48 weeks of the year…ahhhhh those were the days
If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)
I was always disappointed that I didn’t have the chance of bringing / playing with trumpeter Bill Chase – he died in a plane crash before I could make it happen…..but I did get to play 8 concerts with Michael Brecker before he past on…..just bloody fantastic…….life time opportunity.
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
Any Dirty Harry movie (great sound tracks) / Die Hard and for something out of the box Jazz of a Summers Day
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
Glenn Fry record – with Alan Broadbent's arrangements.
One jazz standard you wished you had written . . .
Well You Needn’t……
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
Herbie Hancock's Headhunters LP Cover – ground breaking material – ground breaking recording.
Three non-jazz albums for a desert island would be . . ?
Steely Dan – Aja, Blood Sweet & Tears (Second Album), Willie Nelson with Leon Russell – fantastic Western Swing Recording.
Your dream band of musicians (living or dead) would be . . ?
Ah…..this is a hard one as I would use different players for if it was a combo or a big band……..but for big band I would use Jake Hanna – Drums, Bill Chase – Trumpet and would love to have Frank Rosolino in the trombone section…..even thou I play trombone it would be just great to be able to hear him play live night after night………the list goes on..
And finally, is there a track on your most recent album you would love people to hear. And, if so, why that one?
Well theres two really – Brazilian Fantasy and Jimi.
Brazilian Fantasy show the vibe the Rodger Fox band can get get and Jimi is in the ground breaking side of things – pushing the envelope of sound and style for the big band.
In Concert with The Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra: Joey DeFrancesco, Brenda Boykin and Mike Stern