Mimi Fox: Perpetually Hip – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

With the release of her latest double CD Perpetually Hip, Mimi Fox raises the bar yet again with a set of tunes, three original compositions and ten standards, that feature her dedication and passion towards the art form that is Jazz. Not content to rest on her past laurels, Mimi Fox continues to develop her command of single line improvisation and chord soloing in a style that is singularly unique and utterly refreshing.

Perpetually Hip is definitely an apt title to describe Mimi Fox as she breathes new life into the popular song. Tunes like “But Beautiful”, “The Song Is You”, “Night and Day”, “So Many Stars”, “Caravan”, “Polkadots and Moonbeams”, “Alone Together” and others, get taken to the cleaners to come out sounding hip and fresh in typical Mimi fashion.

But Beautiful” for example gets a rewarding face lift as the band kicks it in an upbeat Latin groove with Mimi on acoustic. The stop time intro is very chic and of course the playing by all is just awe-inspiring. Pianist Xavier Davis plays a great solo before Mimi takes a couple of choruses of serious improvisation with the occasional dissonant note and chord catching the listeners’ attention. In this way Mimi reminds me of Russell Malone in that both are not afraid to shake up the harmonic “scenery” a little to bring a tune into the 21st Century. There’s also a neat moment towards the end of the tune where Mimi vocalizes something while playing some hot lines alongside Xavier. The mic slightly picks it up and it’s such a cool in-the-moment moment. Xavier also does these kinds of utterances during his solos which if you’ve ever heard Oscar Peterson play you’ll know what I’m talking about. Just one more thing that makes the music come alive in my opinion.

Mimi’s own “Perpetually Hip” gets the CD started and from the first note you know this is going to be an outstanding addition to your CD collection. Gorgeous tone, quick double time lines, interesting intervals, a tight arrangement, quirky and catchy melody and the best rhythm section on the planet all add up to a prodigious output of creativity and imagination.

Two other Mimi Fox compositions follow suit as well, the bluesy Monkish “Saluting the Groove” and the heartfelt “While Bangkok Sleeps”. “Saluting the Groove” is a rousing tune with Mimi and drummer Billy Hart kicking up a storm at the beginning in a mutual discourse of creative energy before letting the band in on their fun. Bassist Harvie S gets to shine on this one while Mimi comps for him with some really clever sounding artificial harmonics guiding him along. Mimi’s sensitive side shows up during her own “While Bangkok Sleeps” and the soft acoustic sound of “So Many Stars“. Just gorgeous!

Of course the other tunes get the same treatment but it’s not until the solo arrangement of “Night and Day” that Mimi really gets to shine. This is a brilliant interpretation of the Cole Porter classic and she just plays and swings the heck out of it. It’s funny, because even though Mimi includes the usual solo guitar devices, chord melody intro, single line exploration, sharp chord shots, quick walking bass lines and improvisational skill, the tune doesn’t sound like the usual solo arrangement. And it’s no use comparing her to Joe Pass or even Martin Taylor because she’s got her own thing going on. This is where I think Mimi has been spending all of her free time. It’s obvious that she has been working on her solo guitar chops in overdrive and hearing the results of her dedication to this style of playing is absolutely delightful. I hope she continues playing in this vein because she’s damn good at it.

Thankfully for the listener there’s a second CD in this set that features six influential solo guitar arrangements performed in Mimi’s incomparable style. “Caravan”, “Polkadots and Moonbeams”, “On Green Dolphin Street”, “Alone Together”, “Someone To Watch Over Me/Skylark” and “When The Saints Go Marching In” all are fodder for Mimi’s melodic and harmonic gratification. This is not your father’s chord melody solos!

These renditions have to be heard to fully appreciate the brilliance that Mimi brings to the table. Roaming between the traditional and the modern, Mimi has created a sound that is both pleasing and quite daring. She takes risks harmonically at times and you may wonder how she’s going to ever find her way back, but she does. There were more than a few moments when I let out a laugh of appreciation alongside a twinge of tension. Just listen to Mimi’s take on “Alone Together” to hear what I’m talking about. And don’t get me started about her technique. Her lines on “Polkadots and Moonbeams” bring to mind a combined sound of Joe Pass and Joe Diorio as she stretches the harmonic fabric of the tune just enough to say “yeah I know this tune so let’s see where I can take it”. And her simultaneous play of bass, chords and melody bring to mind the genius that was Lenny Breau. Awsome!

You know I could probably go on and on about this CD but let me just say that if you are a serious Jazz Guitarist or fan of the idiom this is a CD that is a “must get” item. It’s not only inspirational but possibly life-changing. And I’m not being facetious when I say this, I truly believe that this may be your “Giant Steps” moment. ed’s. note: check out Mimi Fox’s interview to learn about this reference.

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