Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|Norrie Cox: March 7, 2007
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Norrie Cox, a native of Brighton, England, died on March 7, 2007. He was
75. He had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in January. Norrie
called me around March 1 and we had a nice chat. His death was a surprise
since he seemed to recovering quite well.
Norrie was active with several traditional jazz bands in the Milwaukee and
Chicago area. He was one of the few players in the country who emulated the
style of the early Black jazzmen and like them played an Albert system
clarinet. Although busy as a musician and a consulting engineer he
maintained his interest in the study of New Orleans jazz and continued to
add to his collection of early jazz recordings. Since 1989 he was active in
teaching teenagers, as a volunteer with the Boy Scouts and the Milwaukee
Boys and Girls club, how to play in the early jazz style.
Norrie was born in Worthing on the south coast of England. In 1948, he heard a Humphrey Lyttelton recording. The impact of
the music, that was so different to anything he had heard before, set him to finding out all he could about jazz and he soon
discovered the music of the early jazz pioneers. He actively collected and studied their music.
In 1958 Norrie formed the San Jacinto Jazz Band which played regularly until 1966 when he was recruited by Cummins Engine
Company and moved from England to Columbus, Indiana,
He maintained his interest in early and revivalist jazz and continued to play his clarinet. His engineering career blossomed
and he moved to Muskegon, Michigan and then to Brookfield, Wisconsin where he worked first at Waukesha Engines and
then at Harley Davidson where he was Chief Engineer of their Test Laboratories.
Around 1970 he had become friends with Bob Rippey, a noted jazz enthusiast and promoter, who introduced him to the
Riverboat Ramblers and the Chicago Footwarmers and in 1981 he joined the Ramblers and soon after became their band
manager. In 1986 he led his own groups the New Orleans Stompers and the Norrie Cox Goodtime Jazz and was a regular
performer with Roy Rubinstein's Chicago Hot Six. He formed he New Orleans Stompers with Prairie Home Companion
musicians Charlie Devore, cornet, Bill Evans, string bass, and Doggie Berg, drums, and Jim Klippert trombone. When Mike
Carrell, banjo passed in the early 1970s, Phil Cartwright joined the group.
Norrie was one of the country's foremost advocates for the preservation of early New Orleans jazz music in live performance
and was one of the few musicians who played like the early jazz pioneers. Like them, he used the Albert system clarinet.
In 1988 Norrie became convinced that in order to preserve the early New Orleans jazz style in live performance it was
necessary to get young people interested in playing it and after a year of false starts formed a Boy Scout Explorer Post with
the playing of New Orleans jazz as it's focus. In 1999 he took the young band to New Orleans where they played at several
locations around town and on Saturday evening played the first set in historic Preservation Hall where both the audience and
the regular band gave them a whole hearted reception. The Post has been in continuous operation since September 1989.
His teaching style was unconventional ion that he did not use written music and youngsters first learned to play simple tunes
by rote or by ear and then were introduced to harmonic theory. The traditional part was played by their chosen instrument
in a New Orleans jazz ensemble, all the while being taught the correct way to p[lay the instrument.
Norrie will be greatly missed by his students and by the musicians with whom he played.