Virtuoso guitarist in KZN

2008-10-02 08:05

Tony Cox is a familiar name in South African music circles, but what was interesting about the opening night of his run of shows in Botha's Hill is that there were a number of people who had not heard his music. “People who haven't heard me before should come expecting nothing and get the full measure,” Cox told me. For these people, guitar playing of this calibre is both inspirational and intimidating. Few others in South Africa can match Cox's ability as a guitarist.

Cox is known for his stints in the Aquarian Quartet as well as shows with another ace guitarist, Steve Newman. Now he pursues a solo career with his show that was a hit at Splashy Fen.

Great. So he's one of the better guitarists around. So what?

Having seen him perform before, it was immediately apparent to me that Cox has worked on engaging the audience between his songs - often a neglected part of a musician's show. For the first part of the show Cox performs on a custom-made acoustic guitar, taking his audience through the more upbeat and frenetic numbers such as Blue Grass Safari and Jambanja to the more tranquil and melancholy Schweet and Hummingbird.

Cox fuses the more traditional jazz and blues sounds with an African flavour, and goes through a range of genres - bluegrass, classical and contemporary. I particularly enjoyed his acoustic rendition of Baby Elephant Walk. For the most part, Cox's acoustic sound inevitably lends itself to mental images of African landscapes and natural surroundings, which is where his authentic niche lies in a saturated market. But it is at the end of his show that the powerful and climatic You Asked For It - his use of digital delay on a different acoustic guitar with different tuning - that leaves everyone truly spellbound.

•Tony Cox's show runs on May 18, 19 and 20 and May 25, 26 and 27 at the Luna Lounge, Botha's Hill, 168 Old Main Road (next door to the Pot and Kettle). Inquiries: 072 280 1949.

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