Dave Fox’s multigenerational jazz family

by Jordan Green

Dave Fox, the jazz pianist who teaches music at Greensboro College, starts playing with his trio at the Green Bean coffee house with little fanfare, leaning slightly to his left and hunching forward as if listening closely to his fingers.

The bass player, Wolfgang Planz, nimbly dispatches a series of soulful notes while the drummer, an A&T student named Larry Draughn, recreates the sound of clattering wind chimes on a farm in the moments before a summer squall.

Setting up for this, his standing Monday night gig, Fox has said: ‘“It’s so cold tonight I don’t know if anybody will show up or not.’”

It turns out a lot will. College students from A&T and UNCG and even a high school player or two will take turns with their instruments. After the first set Fox will not reclaim his seat given that there will be two keyboard players in attendance. But he looks happy standing outside the door on Elm Street and gazing in through the plate glass window periodically. Wearing white tennis shoes and a multicolored sweater with a motif of triangles and piano keys he’s secure enough in his standing to let the young players take their turn. He set the foundation, after all.

‘“Sammy Anflick, he had one of the first jazz clubs ‘— it was called Sammy’s ‘— on Lawndale in the seventies,’” says Fox, who is 50. ‘“He’ll come play with us sometimes. It’s neat to see a seventy year old playing drums and a seventeen year old playing guitar.

‘“One night we had seven saxophonists,’” he adds. ‘“They were all lined up against the wall. One would step onto the floor and play a solo, then step back in line with his arm over his horn, and another would step forward and play.’”

Fox has a new CD coming out this month called Dedication Suite. The collection of improvisational pieces is a solo effort, but Fox will have several friends on hand who play in varied genres to share the spotlight at his release party at Mack and Mack on Nov. 10. Special guests include bouzouki player Chronis, UNCG music professor Steve Haines, R&B vocalist Allison King and Dawn Chorus guitarists Andrew Dudek and Zachary Mull.

‘“I just thought since it was a party it would be fun to have some friends play,’” Fox says. ‘“We’re gonna get some students from A&T and UNCG to play during the cocktail hour.’”

Tonight at the Green Bean, the crowd swells around 9 p.m., as high school and college kids move in to hear their friends. At the other end of the generational spectrum, 75-year-old Larry L. Johnson of High Point has been holding down a seat in the middle of the room since the early evening.

‘“When I lived in Asheboro I used to come up here two or three times a week I liked them so much,’” he says. ‘“Dave, he can play anything.’”

A lifelong musician describing himself as ‘“a hummer and strummer’” who likes to sing Sinatra, Johnson represents the continuity of knowledge and enthusiasm that anchors the scene. He might be described as an ancient hipster.

‘“I started playing in a band in 1947,’” he says. ‘“I sang ’60 Minute Man.’ That was the first rock and roll song I ever heard. It was by the Dominos. I was the only one with a voice deep enough to do it’… I go over to High Point at one or two in the morning to listen to the blues’… I’m an insomniac. I sleep all day, so I can see all the music at night’… A lot of times it’s standing room only here.’”

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