Donal Fox: Jazz & Classics

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Donal Fox was in perfect melodious stride as his fingers tripped lightly and delightfully across the piano keys playing a fluid free-form of  “Handel,â€? “Shumanâ€? and the film score Cinema Pardesiaâ€? with the support of musicians George Mraz on bass and Lewis Nash on drums at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. 

Donal was at the club for an entire week thrilling audiences with his repertoire of jazz and classical scores.  It is said of Fox that he has a mastery of stylistic digressions, enabling him to move from the classics to the blues, from free form to the tango, a genre well suited to the personality of Fox who weds the sensuousness of the Cuban bolero to the intelligence of the classical, to the soul of the blues while paralleling and flowing adeptly into the harmonies of each. “We were really experimenting with different things tonight,â€? explained Donal.  “We opened up with a Bud Powell tune “Buster Rides Again.â€? After that we performed, “Blues on Handel,â€? then “Bright Mississippiâ€? by Thelonious Monk. 

“We did my Italian Concerto Blues and ended it with Monk’s Ugly Beauty. We performed that song New Orleans style as a tribute to the people of New Orleans because of the tragedy there. Also, this weekend, the Albany Symphony Orchestra is premiering my orchestra piece,â€? stated Fox.  “Unfortunately, I can’t be in two places at once since I am presently performing at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola.â€?  Fox’s career has been about the balancing of the classical as a composer and pianist while remaining in consort with the rhythms of jazz.  “It’s been like that since my youthâ€? said the charming composer. “While very young, I was listening to Igor Stravinsky, Bach, Miles Davis, and Monk. 

There was a lot of music in my home.  Both my parents were musical. My father thought about going into music but decided to become a physicist insteadâ€? stated Fox.  “As a 6-year old, I was playing Bach cantatas on the record player as well as listening to Miles, so the music was all good.  When people said to me you must make a decision between classical and jazz, I thought: ‘Why?  I want to do what I want to do.’â€? As a result, he is now renowned for his well-balanced execution and blending of both the classical and jazz idioms. “Jazz is America’s classical music.  Jazz is infamous everywhere in the world whether in Europe or Africa.  The Spirituals, the Blues, and the spin-off into the Pop world of Rock and all those things come from African music,â€? remarked Fox.

Born in Boston and of Judeo-Panamanian background, Fox is said to be musically unlike that of anyone else. “In the older days of music, it was harder to interpret the two modalities of jazz and classical stylistically. For example, if you were a jazz musician and was working with scores and charts, for some musicians it was difficult to interpret classical.  The same thing existed with classical musicians.  They did not know how to improvise or extemporize -- which is much of what jazz is about.  But today there are more and more musicians venturing between the two styles.

It’s just music!  And, like Duke Ellington said, ‘It’s either good or bad.’ Presently, more and more conservatories and schools tend to teach and encourage the bridge between the styles.  Gustav Mahler was a symphonic composer who did a whole thing with jazz and classical.  For example, you can see how easily George Mraz and Lewis Nash who are playing with me tonight, can flow between the two musical genres. George Mraz who was raised in Prague in Czechoslovakia studied to be in the Prague Symphony,â€? added Fox who studied at Berklee and then later received a scholarship to study at the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Fox performed a series of Jazz Duets when he was invited to the Library of Congress.  He premiered a Violin piece by Oliver Lake with Regina Carter.  In 2003/2004, Fox held an artist-in-residence position at the Guthrie Center in Northern Ireland.  “I was in Ireland for about 6 weeks. I was an hour and half south of Belfast.  It was interesting being in that hot spot where much of the fighting goes on.  The tour guide that took me around pointed out areas where his friends had been shot,â€? recalled Fox.

“My imagine of the Irish after being in Boston with their racist history, was to expect the same in Ireland, so I was rather surprised to find the Irish in Ireland are wonderful people who welcomed me with open arms.â€? In 2004, he was named Top Ten Jazz Act in the company of Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins and Ron Carter. He toured Germany last Fall. The 2005-2006 season, finds Fox premiering his Monk and Bach Project at Jazz at Lincoln Center and featuring a new work composed in memory of tenor William A. Brown at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall next Spring.  He will be premiering a new piano concerto in 2006 at Iowa University with the Iowa Symphony. “A mentor of mine, PJ Anderson, wrote a piano concerto for me where he leaves all the cadenzas open. There are very few notes for the piano so I have to improvise the entire concerto with the Orchestra. That will be a real challenge.â€? Fox just completed an orchestra piece based on a Negro Spiritual entitled ‘Here the Lambs are Crying.’

Married without children, Fox loves cooking, jogging, hiking, and the beaches of the Caribbean during his downtime. It is recommended that fans listen to Fox’s “Inventions in Blue,� in order to tap into the nature of the man and his music.

Interested parties can find out more about Fox on his website at 

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