Monday, February 23, 2009


Pianist Kenn Cox and Marion Hayden


I hope you’re having a ball in heaven with pianist Teddy Harris, drummer Roy Brooks, and saxophonist Donald Walden. By the way, how are they doing? I’m sure they were elated when you joined them. Did they give you a big welcome home jam session? Kenn, I would’ve contacted you sooner, but I wanted you to settle in first. I hoped you’re not upset I missed your home going celebration. I planned to attend. The night before I even picked out the outfit I planned to wear: black slacks, a shirt white spread collar dress shirt, a Camelhair blazer, a solid black necktie and polished black Chelsea boots.
That night I had insomnia. I finally drifted off around 3:00am. I overslept. I woke up at noon the next day; an hour after the celebration commenced. Days later, I heard the church overflowed with, your friends, your former students and your peers wanting be a part of you sendoff. Kenn, I hate that I missed out.

Kenn, yesterday, I attended a tribute concert in your honor held at the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church organized by bassist Marion Hayden. She did a stellar job. As an attendee, I finally got the chance to participate in an event honoring and celebrating your contribution to Detroit music culture. After Marion introduced the all-star band she handpicked, the bassist said she hoped for a modest crowd, but the horde of people showed up exceeded her expectations. I estimated well over 100 people attended.

Last Wednesday, the Metrotimes, a weekly newspaper in Detroit, published an article I wrote about Marion’s music career. A month ago, I spent a few hours interviewing Marion, and she talked about her relationship with you. Did you know when you guys were band-mates in Donald Walden’s band over twenty years ago Marion believed you hated her. She said you gave her some discouraging feedback about her playing. She asked me not to reveal what she thought about you back than.I convinced Marion to allow me use those recollections.
The tribute concert was a hit. To make it memorable, Marion assembled members of the various bands you led during your storied career, which included vocalist Shahida Nurullah, drummer Djallo Djakate, pianist Buddy Budson, and a wonderful percussionist who name I can’t remember. He was a member your last band Kenn Cox and Drum. I used to see him regularly at the Om Café. Save for the Duke Ellington’s composition “Caravan,” and a obscure ditty composed by George Gershwin the tribute band played your compositions “Mandela’s Muse,” “What Other One,” “Trance Dance,” and “Bridges”.

Poet Melba Boyd read poems she wrote about you and Donald Walden. Saxophonist Anthony Holland and Marion accompanied her. Boyd is a good jazz poet. She nailed you and Donald’s personalities. I must say something about how Holland. He’s a sweet saxophonist, and he sounds better every time I hear him. Playwright Bill Harris, an admirer of jazz musician from Chicago told me after the concert Holland has ties to Chicago. Harris was uncertain if the saxophonist was born in Chicago and relocated to Detroit or vice versa.

I talked with jazz historian Jim Gallert and his wife Dawn. I sat behind them when the concert started. Jim looked as if he wanted to cry. His cheeks were flush. I could tell Jim really loved you. A few years ago, I had dinner with Jim. He said you taught him about jazz. He also mentioned you’re his best man when he married Dawn. At that dinner, I got the impression Jim considered you a father figure.
The music was inspiring, Kenn. I thought the church’s pastor was into it. I thought he was going to start moonwalking and break dancing when Holland soloed on “Trance Dance”. I wonder if your spirit was there holding your wife’s hand. Kenn, I won’t consume more of your time. You’re probably busy composing new music. Heaven must be a swell place to make music. You don’t have any distractions. I had fun last night. Kenn,you don’t have to worry about your musical legacy because Marion is making sure it lives on.
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