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Shes the Woman by Mimi Fox

Mimi Fox doesn’t have anything to prove. Widely recognized by her peers and jazz guitar aficionados around the world as one of the most gifted, straight-ahead players on the scene, Fox is at the top of her game. She brings both daunting improvisational authority and a infectious sense of joy to the bandstand.

The San Francisco Bay Area-based musician was named a "Rising Star" in Downbeat magazine’s 2003 Critics Poll, shortly after being profiled in the magazine’s feature "66 Hot 6-Stringers," which focused on guitarists "whose work is innovating, invigorating and perpetuating the guitar tradition."

No, Mimi has nothing to prove, but you wouldn’t know it from this CD, which is designed to showcase her formidable array of talents as an arranger, composer and player in both ensemble and solo settings. While the album’s title could be construed as a bit of deserved chest thumping, it’s actually a sly reference to Mimi’s artfully reharmonized version of The Beatles’ She’s a Woman, which concludes the CD.

The album opens with the aptly titled East Coat Attitude, a chops-busting original that captures the intensity that the New York native retains even after years of living on the West Coast.

Her bouncy, Caribbean-tinged number, Sosua, was inspired by some impromptu jamming with street musicians in a Dominican Republic town that she passed through while touring with tenor sax star David Sanchez. Listen to how Mimi gracefully moves into 7/4 on her lithe solo and then resolves back to 4/4 as the vocal refrain comes in. The track also features some deliciously supple piano work by Randy Halbderstadt, a performance that should draw some attention to the Seattle-based player.

With beautiful performances by all involved, Sosua is arguably the best track on the album - which says a lot, considering how good the other tunes are.

Fox and Co. revert to some cool jazz with the third track, Buddy’s Blues, a tune Mimi wrote for Bud Spangler, the drummer, producer and host of Sunday Night Suites, a radio show. Fox’s arrangement of the Matt Dennis standard Angel Eyes is an ominous ride, with Paul van Wageningen’s anxious cymbal work heightening the overall sense of foreboding. At 8:18, the longest track on the disc, Angel Eyes offers the musicians plenty of room to stretch.

Fox’s alluring ballad, Raquel, Mi Amor, is an elegant centerpiece to this collection. It immediately evokes images of a romantic dinner in a classy restaurant, with live musicians providing soft background music, but without disruptive waiters breaking the mood.

The album closes with Fox and bassist Jon Evans churning (and clapping) through She’s a Woman, which is transformed by Mimi’s arrangement from a rock and roll barn burner into a lean piece of jazz funk.

With her chops, musicality and improvisational derring-do, it’s no surprise that Fox indulges in a bit of self-affirmation. However, after listening to the album, it’s easy to conclude that the affirmation is well deserved regardless of who’s giving it.Mimi Fox has arrived.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mimi Fox
  • CD Title: Shes the Woman
  • Genre: Cool Jazz
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Favored Nations Cool
  • Tracks: East Coast Attitude, Sosua, Buddy’s Blues, Angel Eyes, Darn That Dream, Raquel, Mi Amor, Denny’s Tune, Lullaby of the Leaves, On the Sunny Side of the Street, She’s a Woman
  • Musicians: Ray Drummond, bass (tracks 1, 3 and 9); Jon Evans, bass (all other tracks); Randy Halberstadt, piano; Tim Bulkley, drums (tracks 1, 3 and 9); Paul van Wageningen, drums (all other tracks); Tom Miller, steel drums on track 7 and percussion/congas on tracks 2, 4 and 7; Amanda Newstetter, Jon Evans and Mimi Fox, vocals on track 2; Mimi Fox and Jon Evans, handclaps on track 10
  • Rating: Four Stars
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