Written by from National Public Radio
San Francisco-based guitarist Mimi Fox was born in 1956 in New York City. Growing up, Fox recalls an eclectic mix of music in her home: Her father, an amateur drummer, enjoyed early jazz and had a collection of Dixieland albums. Her mother was a professional singer until Fox was 12, so the music of the American songbook was also present. Meanwhile, her older brother and sister were taken with the rock and pop sounds of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Fox began playing the drums in the school band at age 9. A year later, she picked up the guitar and began picking out Beatles and Monkees tunes. She would continue playing guitar throughout her teenage years, but with a focus on funk, R&B and Top 40 music. As a drummer, though, Fox remained connected to jazz, playing in several groups through junior high and high school. At age 14, Fox was encouraged by her friends and bandmates to check out John Coltrane, which she recalls as a seminal moment in her musical development.
In 1979, Fox moved out to San Francisco, where she became an in-demand musician playing in diverse groups in and around the Bay Area. There, she also met guitarist Bruce Forman, who encouraged her to focus on jazz guitar full-time. Fox has since been recording and touring fiendishly, playing jazz clubs and festivals around the world and garnering accolades from fans and critics along the way. She has performed and/or recorded with such artists as Branford Marsalis, Abbey Lincoln, Diana Krall and Dr. Lonnie Smith, as well as fellow guitarists Charlie Hunter and Stanley Jordan.
Fox continues a grueling touring schedule, and also finds time for jazz education. She is chair of the guitar department, a faculty professor and instructor at the Jazz School in Berkeley, Calif., and has served as an adjunct professor at New York University. In addition, she has written a book about guitar methods for Mel Bay publishing, and has also created a digital jazz course called Jazz Anatomy.
Her latest release, Live at the Palladium! was released in 2010.