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Mimi Fox: Perpetually Hip

On this two-disc outing, her second for Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label, guitarist Mimi Fox divides her time between quartet and unaccompanied settings. She plays standards and originals on disc one with pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Harvie S and drummer Billy Hart. For the solo recital on disc two, she focuses on standards (as she did on the aptly titled Standards, her 2001 solo disc for Origin). Oddly, her solo rendering of “Night and Day” appears on the quartet disc; why it wasn’t grouped with the rest of the solo work is not clear.

Fox is an accomplished player, but her guitar sound here is too bright and thin. On the quartet disc, it’s her writing that yields the most interest. The opening title track, a dark waltz, has some surprising twists in the bridge. “While Bangkok Sleeps” draws on harmonic language that is just as refreshing. “Saluting the Groove,” a slow and deep-swinging blues head, begins with bass and guitar in unison and builds toward spirited rhythmic dialogue between Fox and Billy Hart. The half-time shuffle outro on “The Song Is You” is another solid idea. But next to the polished (and underrated) Xavier Davis, Fox’s solos can seem breathless and disjointed. Her switch to acoustic on “But Beautiful” and “So Many Stars” serves the music well, however.

The solo disc leads off with “Caravan,” a difficult choice, but one to which Fox responds imaginatively. She continues with “Polkadots and Moonbeams,” “On Green Dolphin Street,” “Alone Together” and a combined “Someone to Watch Over Me/Skylark”–each one ripe for more harmonic development than Fox achieves. Her acoustic reworking of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” which closes the album, shows a more creative and personal touch, but the brittle tone of the guitar works against her.

Originally Published