Kenny Cox might not be the most well known jazz musician of his generation, but he certainly made an impact that is still being felt and will continue reverberating for years to come. As a recording artist, Cox became known for his group, the Contemporary Jazz Quintet, with whom he recorded two records with under the direction (or opposition to) Blue Note A&R director at the time, Duke Pierson. This ultimately led him to leave the major label scene despite heavy interest from Arista Records at the time Clap Clap! (The Joyful Noise) was recorded.
At this point, Cox was focusing on the other side of his musical legacy, Strata Records. As a record label owner and subsequent community-builder in Detroit, Cox helped bring to fruition amazing recordings from the likes of Larry Nozero, Sam Sanders, Ron English, and Lyman Woodard to name only a few. Moreover he was bringing acts like Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Chick Corea and other legends into his community space for the Detroit populace in some of the most intimate sessions these musicians have ever performed.
Now with Strata Records being relaunched under the direction of Amir Abdullah, Kenny Cox’s Clap Clap! (The Joyful Noise) will finally receive the proper release it is due. “Kenny was going to put his own album, this album, out on Strata, but he never got around to it. He put everybody else’s records out that he could, except for his own. I felt like this was a really poignant way for me to start this label again. I’m giving a dedication to him because he put a lot of hard work into this label. They lost their house when the label had to shut down. He lost a lot. I just felt it would be a great dedication to him,” Abdullah explains.
The album is a sonic journey through deep-cut rhythms, lush orchestrations, and brisk melodies. Tying together the tracks, you can follow the Latin flavor Cox must have been feeling at the time which seems to infect everything from the melodies and harmonies to the rhythms and solos. Compositionally speaking, Kenny brought an unique and unmatched voice to his music that allowed for room to make you want to dance or it down and contemplate. As much as it is a shame the album was never released in its time, the music stands as fresh today as it must have many years ago. There is no expiration date on the music of Kenny Cox.
If you are interested in getting your hands on this record, it is available exclusively through Amir’s 180-Proof Records which was licensed the rights to the entire Strata catalog. Be sure to be on the lookout for more amazing records and media from them throughout the coming year!
Words by Eric Sandler (@ericsandler)
Photographs Courtesy of Barbara Cox