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Jamie Fox: My Long, Strange Trip

By Published: March 10, 2008
AAJ: I'd like to ask you about a couple of your experiences. You just described Jack McDuff, so we'll continue chronologically. Dr. John, how'd you come into contact with him, and what'd you get from that experience?

JF: Sure, well, I love New Orleans music, and he's one of the incredible musicians from out of there. In San Francisco there was a night club, which I think is still there, called Slim's. It was kind of a hot spot then, and I was in the house band there. That was a really good band, and we would play with people who came down without a band, and Dr. John was one of those guys. We played for several nights and it was just really cool. For one thing, as a student, from where I was standing on the stage, I could see his hands on the piano, and it was so cool to watch and hear the sound and sort of see what he was doing.

So it was just a great experience that way. I have a moment that I still recall very fondly where we were playing one of his tunes called "Walk On Gilded Splinters," which is like this real moody, minor key, slow groove kind of thing. And there's just some space where he's not singing, and I was playing some chords that were maybe more broader than harmony. He stopped playing for a while and was just listening to the stuff I was playing. And then in the dressing room later, he said, "Man, I liked what you were playing on that. It sounded like John Scofield." And I was surprised that he would know about John Scofield, but then I found out that they had played together right around that time. So it was just great because I loved the music and he's a really cool, fantastic musician.

AAJ: That's funny. I've actually heard "Gilded Splinters" through the Allman Brothers and through Widespread Panic and through the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, so three different incarnations along with the original. It's become a very popular song around the jam band scene. Another house band experience was at the Hawaii International Jazz Festival, where you got to play with some pretty special performers. Why don't you talk a bit about that experience and how you got all the way out to Hawaii.

JF: Sure, that came about through a connection in San Francisco whose name is Benny Rietveld. He's an electric bassist who played for several years with Miles Davis in his latter period, and he's played with Santana for years. He's a great musician and incredible composer and just a kind of super-talented guy. So we played together a lot, and he was one of the sort of revolving cast in The Blues Among Us. That's why I thank everybody who played in that band on the new CD because it was just kind of an interesting experience with a bunch of different people. In fact, John Kahn was our first bassist, and he was the bassist for all the Jerry Garcia Band albums.

So Benny's from Hawaii, and it turned out that there was a producer back there who was interested in making a record with Benny and two other friends who had all grown up in Hawaii. And they needed someone to play chords, so through Benny I got involved with that and went to Hawaii for the first time, and we made the record. They were kind of local celebrities, because you know they'd been to New York and San Francisco and had been playing with famous people. So it was really fun going out there and connecting with them and their families and friends. And then there was a promoter who started this Hawaii International Jazz Festival, and he recruited us to be kind of like the house band. We played with all these different people, you know Ernie Watts and Gene Harris and all these great people. But it was very intense because you know we were getting some music ahead of time, and we might be doing two completely different things back to back. So yeah, I ended up going back to Hawaii many times, and it was just a really cool thing. I played at several of those jazz festivals.

AAJ: So the last person I really wanted to talk about was Jen Chapin. You touched on her a little bit, but of all the people that you've played with, she seems like she's as eclectic as you are, in different ways obviously, but maybe a kindred spirit. So why don't you talk about your experiences with her.

JF: Yeah, we just played last night actually. Her dad is Harry Chapin and her brothers are well-known musicians, and they do these Chapin family shows every once in a while. So they did one in New Jersey last night. Basically they play a bunch of Harry's music, and they do a little mini set of Jen's music in the middle, and I'll play on tunes with other people.

align=center>Jamie Fox

Jen Chapin with Jamie Fox

So back to Jen, you know I met Stephan Crump early on at like a brunch gig in Soho, and that was before even he and Jen had met. And then after they met, Jen would come and hear gigs that we were doing, and she just liked what we were doing. She had a really interesting band then, but she kind of just wanted to make a change. So first she had Stephan start playing bass, then she asked me to play guitar. That was seven, eight years ago now. And we mostly performed with a pretty full band with a guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and often saxophone. So we just did that and we did a bunch of tours, but after a while for different reasons, we're mostly now performing as a trio, just upright bass and guitar and Jen sings.

There's just a really strong connection musically between us; she's just a very soulful person and super appreciative of the musicians that she works with. There's no separation of singer and band—it's like we're all together. And her music is really rich harmonically and melodically, and it's not like there's a whole lot of stretching out in terms of soloing, but there are moments where Stephan and I just kind of groove out on an outro or something. And people will always come up and say, "It sounds like there's a drummer." So we just all have a really great connection, and she's still growing as a musician and singer. And, yeah, we're just really good friends too.

We recorded a new album this August. It's a quartet, actually, with Liberty Ellman playing acoustic guitar, and it's mostly cover tunes, so we do some Springsteen, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, stuff like that. And it really sounds good I think. So that's the thing with Jen, and most of the touring I'm doing is with Jen, and it's just a great thing. It's a great gig, but it's way beyond that too.

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