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Farewell to Dr. Rodger Fox

Story Published Tuesday 28 May 2024

Legendary jazz trombonist, band leader, teacher and educator Dr. Rodger Fox, who led the Rodger Fox Big Band and Rodger Fox Wellington Jazz Orchestra as well as playing with The Quincy Conserve and The 1860 Band, has died.

Born in Christchurch but spending his childhood years in Invercargill, Gore, Hawera and Wellington (as his music teacher parents travelled from opportunity to opportunity), Fox studied classical trombone as a teenager, later responding to a newspaper callout for brass players from Malcolm Hayman, leader of slick jazz-influenced outfit The Quincy Conserve.

Fox spent five years with Quincy Conserve, during which he started the side project which would dictate his post-Quincy career. In 1973, at twenty years of age, Fox formed The Golden Horn Big Band, named after the group’s sponsor (and Fox’s employer), a local Wellington music store.

Five years later, the now-named Rodger Fox Big Band was playing Sydney’s premier jazz venues, fundraising to reach the Montreux Jazz Festival – a feat they managed in both 1980 and 1981, committing both performances to recording.

Fox estimated the number of New Zealand players that had passed through one their ‘big bands’ to be over 200, including collaborations with artists as varied as Alan Broadbent, John Scofield, Michael Houstoun, Richard Clayderman, Midge Marsden, Ray Woolf and Mary Yandall.

In 2003 Fox was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to music, later becoming a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) in 2022. Fox has won the Aotearoa Music Award for Aotearoa Jazz Recording of the Year on four separate occasions and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Massey University in 2005.

His legacy lives on via his teachings and an extensive catalogue of over fifty full-length recordings. Moe mai rā, Rodger.