Prior to receiving "When I Get Home", I had heard guitarist Jamie Fox on only one other recording - Stephan Crump’s "Rosetta", one of 2007’s best releases in jazz or any other genre. For this, his debut as a bandleader, Fox is backed by an accomplished ensemble that includes star pianist Kenny Werner and drummer Michael Sarin, in addition to Crump’s warm, supple bass. Like ‘Rosetta’, the mood is genial, folksy, and relaxed, replete with moderate-to-slow tempos and lyrical melodies that tend to linger in one’s mind. Fox’ music shows few of the avant-garde tendencies that Crump's does. The music on "When I Get Home" is mellow and thoughtful, with carefully worked surfaces. Its curiously laid-back atmosphere tends to conceal the really interesting aspects of Fox' compositions and the improvisations that grow within them. The result is a CD that may pass unnoticed if you don’t give it your full attention, or at least several listens.
As a guitar soloist, Fox is definitely not a ‘flurry of notes’ or ‘lightning fast chromatic runs’ guy. His clean, effects-free sound, and patient, blues-soaked improvisations bring greats such as Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, and T-Bone Walker to mind. His wry humor and penchant for odd phrases bring Jim Hall’s work to mind, as well as Bill Frisell’s less-abstract, less-quirky persona. Other aspects of Fox’s playing suggest considerable experience playing blues, rock, folk, and country music.
None of Fox’ compositions seem to come from the straight ahead jazz world, though a few ('Five One & A Half', ‘Row After Row’, ‘Moniker’) are relatively simple head-solos-head vehicles that employ samba-like or rock-like rhythms. On other tracks, Fox artfully combines seemingly unrelated compositional motifs to subvert the initial direction of a piece into new and unexpected places. For example, the chorale-like rubato opening section of ‘All In Time’ suggests a Charlie Haden anthem, or perhaps an Ornette-inspired lamentation. A second melody is then introduced over a lazy samba-like rhythm and, as the rhythm shifts to a slinky funk feel, shards of both melodies are restated simultaneously by reeds and guitar. ‘Ognat’, a minor-keyed tango turned on its head, lacks only a bandoneon to complete its smoky, sultry ambience. 'New News' is a sharp-witted Monk / Ornette inspired piece that ramps up the tempo and tension level slightly. The spare, bluesy, gently resigned tone of two guitar - bass - drums trios (‘Leisure’ and ‘Childhood’) come from the same sort of weathered bare-wood, rustic spaces that several of Crump’s pieces from ‘Rosetta’ inhabited.
"When I Get Home" is a very pleasant set of originals - almost too pleasant for its own good. With gentle rhythms and appealing, mellow textures, Fox’ music gently insinuates itself on the listener - never clamoring for attention. The important thing is not to let "When I Get Home" slip into the background, where it would be dismissed as yet another merely pretty CD. It may take a few listens for even seasoned music fans to recognize the musical riches therein, but it will be time well-spent.