Influenced by Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, George Lewis (the New Orleans clarinetist, not the avant-garde trombonist), and Jimmie Noone (among others), Norrie Cox is a veteran Dixieland clarinetist who is identified with the Midwestern jazz scene but was born and raised in England. Cox's playing shows no awareness of bop-oriented clarinetists like Buddy DeFranco and Tony Scott; Cox is Dixieland all the way, and his work is quite faithful to the spirit of the New Orleans jazz of the '10s and '20s. Cox's roots aren't bop icons like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, and Thelonious Monk; his roots are Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven bands, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, and the seminal Buddy Bolden -- and he has a reputation for being a real historian when it comes to New Orleans jazz. For his website, Cox wrote an informative, impressively comprehensive essay on the history of Dixieland -- one that describes how 19th century events (including the Civil War and the abolitionist movement) led up to the birth of jazz in the 1890s.
Cox was born in Brighton, England and discovered jazz in 1950. He learned the clarinet when he was serving in England's Royal Air Force, and after that, he led a British Dixieland group called the San Jacinto Band (which played around London in the '50s and early to mid-'60s). But Cox had skills outside of music; he had trained to be a mechanical engineer, and he had a "day gig" in that field when he was leading the San Jacinto Band. In 1966, Cox's work as an engineer brought him to the United States, and in 1970, he settled in the Milwaukee, WI area. In the late '60s and throughout the '70s, Cox pretty much stayed away from jazz, but in 1980, the clarinetist realized how much he missed music and became active on the Midwestern Dixieland scene. The '80s found Cox playing with the Riverboat Ramblers (a group from Madison, WI) as well as trombonist Roy Rubenstein's Chicago Hot Six; in 1993, Cox was featured on Rubenstein's Delmark release Shout 'Em!. In 1987, he formed Norrie Cox & His New Orleans Stompers, whose members have included cornetist Charlie DeVore, trombonist Jim Klippert, bassist Bill Evans (not to be confused with either the legendary bop/post-bop pianist Bill Evans or fusion saxophonist Bill Evans), banjoist Mike Carrell, and drummer Donald "Doggie" Berg -- and the group continued to be active in the Upper Midwest (mostly Wisconsin and northern Illinois) in the early 2000s. (Clarinetist George Lewis also had a group called the New Orleans Stompers, which was active long before the formation of Cox's group.) As a leader, Cox has been recording for the Chicago-based Delmark Records since the '90s. Move the Body Over, Cox's first Delmark release with his New Orleans Stompers, came out in 1998; it was followed by Dance Hall Days (a 1999 release), and Live at the Illiana (recorded in 2001). ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi