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I'll never forget my first encounter with the astounding Minneapolis bassist Anthony Cox. It was 1977 at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire where I was nearing the end of my music studies looking forward to escaping with my degree in hand, when this African-American man (not a common sight at this lily-white University in the middle of nowhere) came straight up to me and asked if I was Peter Madsen. After confirming his question he said, "I heard about you. Let's find a practice room and play some music." We started playing and magically had an immediate hookup. And thus began a musical love affair that has lasted to this very day.
After graduating from University I moved to Minneapolis where Anthony was instrumental in getting me my first gig and introduced me to the jazz scene there. A couple years later we became roommates for a while and practiced together almost every day dreaming of playing in the "Big Apple". About a year later our dream came true when we both moved to New York City and I found a duo gig for us at One-Fifth Avenue (our first gigs in New York). In the early 1980's we formed a cooperative trio together with drummer Jeff Williams called Interplay. We played mostly freely improvised music on homemade percussion, synthesizers, kitchen appliances and of course on our own instruments. A few years later Anthony got me on the Stan Getz gig as well as my first recording with Fred Wesley. Along with Chris Potter, Toninho Horta and Lewis Nash, Anthony is the bassist on my first recording as a leader Snuggling Snakes
If you haven't heard of Anthony Cox you should check out any of the more than one hundred recordings he's been chosen to be on by musicians like Geri Allen, Dewey Redman, Dave Douglas, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Gary Thomas, Marty Ehrlich, Ed Blackwell and Joe Lovano (he was on Joe's album of the year in 1996 - Quartets Live at the Village Vanguard). Anthony is truly a remarkable musician. He has a brilliant mind and is open to all kinds of great music from around the world (It was Anthony who taught me about the diverse jazz scene in Europe). His bass sound is full of beauty and warmth and his ability to accompany and still add very creative ideas into whatever music he is playing is remarkable. He is equally comfortable playing chord changes with a Stan Getz or Kenny Wheeler or playing open music with a Dewey Redman or Geri Allen. His technique is absolutely awesome and his solos are full of wit and wisdom. His skills as a composer can be heard on any of the recordings he's made as a leader such as Dark Metals with Billy Higgins and Dewey Redman.
Anthony moved back to Minneapolis almost ten years ago now and I'm sad to say I haven't seen him very often since then. I miss him a lot and wish he would get out to New York more often. He is truly one of a kind and we need his talents out here in New York on a steadier basis. But he is still playing a lot back in Minneapolis and elsewhere around the world as well as teaching and recording. He is the leader of a number of groups there and he continues to be the idealistic artist that he has always been. If you want to hear a brilliant jazz bassist then run don't walk to your nearest computer and order a CD or two with Anthony on it!
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.