FAME Review: Mimi Fox - Live at the Palladium (DVD)
Mimi Fox - Live at the Palladium (DVD)

Live at the Palladium

Mimi Fox

Favored Nations - FN2701-9 (DVD)

Available from Mimi Fox's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by
Mark S. Tucker

There's something to watching a guitarist live that cannot be reduplicated in audio. Sure, all the same notes appear but the visuals add so much more than just another perceptual dimension, they imbue deeper aesthetics. Over a long history of concert-going, I've seen Hendrix and his mystical mojo (L.A. Forum), watched Jan Akkerman mesmerize a crowd armed just with an oud (Santa Monica Civic), caught David Bowie stepping aside from the Spiders to bring a ravening throng to silence with an acoustic six-string (Santa Monica Civic), beheld Ralph Towner creating art in the finesse of his hands moving over the fretboard (McCabe's), sat silent as Robert Fripp created worlds with an electric and outboards (The Roxy), witnessed Steve Howe enter a state of frantic nirvana (L.A. Forum), and many more besides but always and always, it was the ability to be able to live in their environment and catch every little nuance that produced more wonder than vinyl or digital could capture.

But how close can a concertgoer get to the players? Not very. And how often can anyone but the rich afford the ridiculous prices? Don't get me started. Thus, video came along and made everyone a front row V.I.P. Nay, not front row but rather an on-stage presence. More, you could catch just about anyone you wanted for around $20, and see them again and again. The medium brought a whole new immediacy to the musical experience, and so now we got to see Tommy Emmanuel; Tal Farlow with Carlton, Abercrombie, Coryell, and Scofield; Joe Satriani; Ana Popovic; and, hell, you name 'em, the chances are good whoever you want to watch is available. That's why this DVD of Mimi Fox is valuable. Minus the visuals, you'd never witness the leashed electricity putting the icing on the auditory cake in just such a manner—ya may not have noticed, but jazzers engage neither in the somersaults, the headstands, the flying spinning reverse karate kicks, nor all the headbanging that rockers love so much, and so one must dig in and extend one's neural network rather than loins and gluteals.

Fox has been boiling under for quite some time despite the release of seven albums and the impressive feat of nabbing a place on Steve Vai's Favored Nations label and the Favored Nations subsidiary 'Cool' imprint. Hell, even Wikipedia devotes only 6 sentences to her (!!!), but this DVD should change that. She's most definitely at the top of her game here in a tight trio format (Chris Enghauser - bass, Akira Tana - drums) covering standards, the Great American Songbook, and a few of her own tunes. Until this release, even though I'd covered her Perpetually Hip release (here), I hadn't caught the Earl Klugh aspects of Mimi's playing. In this, it's plain as day, but I also stick with my earlier comparisons to Hall, Martino, Pass, and Green, among others, 'cause Fox hails from a long estimable trad jazz lineage.

What enthralls most, however, is the woman's inventiveness and constant shifts in tempo and inflection, broadening each song out voluminously. Guitar Player magazine noted that she "has not only mastered the traditional forms [but] has managed [to] reinvigorate them", and that's precisely the way you'll feel as a wave of exhilaration wells up in your chest. What Fox is doing now is the exact same thing that caught so many on to Benson in the 70s, that oceanic wave of breathtaking freshness, of vocabulary re-translated. The last effort of this sort which nailed me so thoroughly was Klugh's Trio, Vol. One; thus, Live at the Palladium is the direct link to that masterpiece, two decades later. I guarantee that even as you hunker down and dig the intense mentation that went into so many interpretational nuances, you'll also be be-boppin' in your seat, snapping fingers, reaching for hipster cheaters, and hanging breathlessly on all the suspends, turnarounds, inversions, and variations. Not only in the guitarist's work, however, which is obviously outstanding, but also her choice of sidemen. Those guys smoke, damn near as clever and musically conversational as Fox, and the blend of all three forms a bionic unit.

Track List:

  • Blues for 2 (Mimi Fox)
  • Stella by Starlight (Washington / Young)
  • Pack of Lies (Mimi Fox)
  • Roses in January (Mimi Fox)
  • Triste (Antonio Carlos Jobim)
  • Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Burke / van Heusen)
  • Yardbird Suite (DeBarge / Parker)
  • My Romance (Hart / Rodgers)
  • Caravan (Tizol / Ellington)
  • Lullabye of the Leaves (Petkere / Young)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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