Connecticut based percussionist Kevin J. Fox has performed with groups as varied as jazz combos, stage and theater pit bands and symphony orchestras. He has played throughout the east coast and extensively in the Fairfield County area for more than 30 years. He is currently the drummer for the popular classic rock band D.N.R. (Fairfield County’s ALMOST All Physician Rock and Roll Band), and over the past few years has performed steadily with The Penfield Reefers Band and The Ed Chervansky Jazz Quartet. Kevin was also one of the founding members of Jazz Dreams, a group made up of some of the area’s finest jazz musicians.
Growing up in Fairfield County he was able to take advantage of the diverse music scene, whether attending Broadway shows or catching some jazz at The Continental Restaurant in Fairfield….where he had the chance as a 12 year old to sit in with the great pianist Teddy Wilson from the Benny Goodman group. “As a kid I listened more to the big bands of the ‘40’s than to the rock bands of the ‘60’s. Although it was so many years ago, having to chance to play with Teddy Wilson is still one of my favorite musical memories”.
Kevin studied jazz drumming with Harry Ashmore while also continuing to play piano, which began when he was three years old. “I was able to combine my drumming skills with my piano background, and naturally gravitated to the Vibes and Marimba in Junior High. In eighth grade I was selected to be the lead percussionist in a combined High School Orchestra, and throughout my high school years I played in various jazz groups, percussion ensembles and orchestras.” At the University level, he was the lead percussionist with the Fairfield University Chamber Orchestra….and led the Fairfield University Pep Band for 4 years handling not only the drumming, but also the musical arrangements. “That Pep Band was great fun…Fairfield had a great basketball team those years, and we had the chance to bring the band down to Madison Square Garden to perform at games. I like to tell people that we were the warm up band for a Billy Joel concert….of course he was performing the night after the basketball game…but we WERE the last band that performed at The Garden before Billy Joel.”
He has been influenced by drummers that include Buddy Rich, Danny Seraphine of Chicago (the early stuff when they cooked), Chester Thompson, Ringo Starr and Hal Blaine (the most recorded drummer of all time), Max Roach, Joe Morello, Tony Williams and Jack Dejohnette. “Besides being an amazing drummer, Jack Dejohnette is a wonderful pianist and composer…and he is probably one of the most ‘musical’ drummers I know.”
“ I love music, being a drummer and having the opportunity to perform all types of gigs. I played lots of sports when I was younger….but my days of football and hockey are long gone. Music…man I can do that until the day I die!”
Check out the below interview with Kevin!
Where in Connecticut did you grow up and what got you into playing the drums?
I was raised in Fairfield, CT. Starting in the third grade I took piano lessons from the nuns at St. Thomas Aquinas Grammar School. I was taught the basics….proper hand and finger placement, the scales, rudimentary music theory and that open confession was good for the soul. As my musical interest grew, so did my interest in different types of music…first classical and gradually jazz. My parents noticed that I was always tapping and banging away on anything I was near to the beats I was hearing. When I was 10 they got me my first drum set for Christmas in the hope that I would focus on banging on the drums instead of the kitchen table. At that age my playing was limited to running downstairs after dinner, putting my headphones on and playing along with the records I had sitting around…anything from the Monkees, The Beatles, Chicago (the early…good stuff) to The Glen Miller Orchestra and Buddy Rich. I would play to this music until my mother would open my bedroom door to tell me to stop playing because Walter Cronkite was coming on tv with the news. In 7th grade I transferred to the public junior high school in town, and it was there that I was fortunate enough to find a band instructor, Wayne Hiller, who introduced me to and taught me how to perform on a wide range of percussive instruments…conga, bongos, clave, maracas, marimba and vibes. Mr. Hiller put together a Percussion Ensemble of students and we had the opportunity to perform on just about every percussive instrument imaginable. In Seventh Grade our Jr. High School band marched the local Memorial Day Parade and I was assigned to march while playing the Triangle, because. I was told, it “was groovy and the sound will really cut through”. By the Eighth Grade my musical ability grew along with my size. In that year’s Memorial Day Parade I had a xylophone strapped to my shoulders. Throughout high school and college I continued to perform in groups ranging from garage bands to Jazz and Classical Orchestras. I continue to play today in various Jazz groups, as well as a classic rock band made up of mostly physicians. I get the occasional call for session work as a drummer or percussionist.
What are some tips you can share about keeping active as a freelance drummer in CT?
Be prepared, Be flexible, Be on time. Musicians in Connecticut get to know pretty quickly who they should call to have the gig go well….and who NOT to call. Do your homework…know what’s expected of you, and, just as you hear in school or in the workplace…don’t be afraid to ask questions. Who will be counting a song in, and how does it end? Does it tag, and if so how many times? If you’re filling in for another drummer you want it to look and sound as if you’ve been playing together for years.
What advice do you have to any upcoming drummer?
The old saying “anything worth doing is worth doing well” certainly applies to music. Practice is important and you should be disciplined in what you are practicing, when and for how long. Connecticut is blessed to have excellent drum instructors to learn from. There is so much available on the internet to use as a training tool…so many great instructional videos on YouTube. Find a player/instructor that fits the style of music you’d like to study and go to work. And then, don’t be shy about getting out there and putting your new found skills to the test. I was lucky to have been exposed to all types of music growing up and that has opened the door for all types of gigs. Don’t be afraid to stray from your comfort zone….get out to the open jam sessions in the area and get your name on the list. Enjoy the challenge, build your confidence and strive to become the drummer that’s on musician’s ‘First Call” list.