Unfortunately, Mimi Fox is one of only a few female guitarists in jazz. Only Leni Stern and the late, lamented Emily Remler seem to have broken through that male-dominated stranglehold. But Kicks, Fox's latest disc and her third as a leader, places the guitarist in star-studded company to firmly announce that, yes, she too can play - and hold her own with the big boys.
Fox is an especially good player, giving Kicks an appeal that you'll want to hear again. Her sound and style, derived mostly from bebop, owes much to the late Joe Pass. Pass was actually quite the Fox fan, boasting of her "technical prowess" and "extraordinary fire." Appropriately nicknamed "Fast Fingers," Ms. Fox seems more than capable of handling anything she wants. Here, she also displays an appealing attraction beyond bop to easily embrace soul jazz, the blues and pop concepts too.
On Kicks, Fox bides most of her time between a piano quartet (featuring Yellowjacket Russell Ferrante) and a Blue Note-like organ trio (highlighted by the ubiquitous Joey DeFrancesco). She also pulls out an acoustic guitar for a solo take of "A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square" and gets down with Charlie Hunter, whose eight-string guitar prowess provides a nice compliment to Ms. Fox and a funky bass line as well, on "Willow Weep For Me."
On the quartet numbers, highlighted by her own, quite lovely "Vita's Lullaby," she most recalls the especially fleet fingering of Joe Pass crossed with the single-run fancy of Grant Green. On the organ pieces, of which "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" is the best, Fox resembles Pass filtered through the more soulful fire of McDuff-era George Benson (most obviously on the slowed-down blues of Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like A Rock").
Despite differing instrumentation, Kicks offers strength of consistency purely due to Ms. Fox's outstanding playing. She is an above average soloist, too, manning (pardon the pun) some especially meaningful and well-done interchanges, particularly on "In A Sentimental Mood" and her own "Mr. White's Blues." Her deep sensitivity will probably provide her the eventual voice she is certainly capable of. Until then, Kicks stands as a diverse introduction to an especially fine jazz guitarist.
Songs:Cherokee; Loves Me Like A Rock; Poor Wayfarin' Stranger' Born To Be Blue; In A Sentimental Mood; A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square; Kicks; Willow Weep For Me; Vita's Lullaby; Mr. White's Blues.
Players:Mimi Fox: electric and acoustic guitar; Russell Ferrante: piano; Joey DeFrancesco: organ; Charlie Hunter: guitar; John Wiitala, Mark VanWageningen: bass; Will Kennedy: drums; Angel Bofill: vocal on "Born To Be Blue"; Marquinho Brasil: percussion.