ianist/composer/arranger Kenny Cox died December 19, 2008, after a battle against lung cancer.
Born in Detroit on November 8, 1940, Cox was a product of Cass Tech, Wayne State University (business major), and various Detroit music schools.
studied trumpet in his
teens - visions of Clifford Brown danced in his
head - but his
mother insisted that he
learn piano, too.
So Kenn studied piano, and became proficient enough to gig on both instruments.
After a couple of years most of the calls were for piano, so he
reluctantly put the trumpet aside.
Decades later, he'd sometimes refer to himself as a "failed trumpeter!"
loved music of all types and descriptions, but during the early sixties he
was influenced by Miles and Coltrane both in his
playing and composing - his
material has been recorded by many bands.
One early band featuring Cox
was the Bohannon-Fields Quintet
, a Coltrane-influenced group that recorded under drummer Bert Myrick's name.
Their tenor/trombone front line created an interesting blend.
Members of the Jazz Crusaders were in Detroit frequently at the time (1962) and listened attentively to Bohannon-Fields
The Crusaders later recorded two of Cox's
Cox also worked frequently with percussionist Francisco Ali Mora in a Latin flavored quintet which really cooked.
was politically active, and dubbed himself a "Cultural Warrior" who pushed for recognition of many forgotten Detroit music legends.
His widow, Barbara, was president of the Societe of the Culturally Concerned, a group which most recently honored pioneer ragtime composer/pianist Harry P. Guy.
I met Cox some thirty-six years ago when I began working at WDET-FM.
hosted "Kaleidephone" on Saturday afternoons.
I was a neophyte jazz host, and Cox
offered many useful and practical tips on producing/hosting jazz radio programs.
He was the first Detroit musician who "let me in," accepted me as a friend.
Our friendship was my entree into the jazz scene.
I spent many Saturdays in his
company and our relationship went from colleagues to friends.
could be heard at Baker's semi-regularly in a trio setting.
loved show tunes, and these would pour forth from the piano balanced by a healthy dose of Ellington and other American and Latin composers.
exemplified the Detroit piano tradition: a lyrical approach infused with the blues.
And make no mistake about it, he
was a blues master.
spent most of his
life in Detroit, performing, teaching, observing.
wife of forty-two years, loved his
playing and loved him.
was eloquent and witty, a man with many thoughts and opinions whose words were as clear, crisp and lyrical as his
was a Griot, a Music Master.
was a humanitarian, an "American-African," who viewed people as individuals not as part of a group.
One is reminded of the saying, "A city's reputation is established by those musicians who leave, but sustained by those who stay".
We are fortunate to have had the wonderful Mr. Cox
with us for so long.