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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week: "The Story So Far.....Oh Really? By Lol Coxhill with Steve Miller

Sad news but a celebratory memory inflect this week's album. Soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill died July 10th at age 79. Don't fret if you've never heard of him. Like his playing, he flitted around the edges of many a musical genre, playing with artists from Rufus Thomas to The Damned; from Martha and the Vandellas to Robert Wyatt. He played duets with British pianist Steve Miller. But mostly, he's known for pure solo improvisations, which he perfected as a busker (street performer). He's the reputed protagonist of Joni Mitchell's "Real Good for Free." 

In a world obsessed with the doings of megastars like Bono and Gaga, it seems odd that a humble busker could have triumphed historically in relative obscurity. Odd, but true. I surmise the reason is due to Lol's prodigious talent combined with his good-humored warmth.

I was introduced to Lol Coxhill by my friend and bandmate Pete McPhail. The setting was The Mayfly Free Festival at Oxpens, an open area in Oxford, England. Coxhill had been jamming with The Global Village Trucking Company (another open-hearted musical entity, which eschewed record company contracts for playing free concerts wherever they could). Lol played the gig wearing a gorilla suit, and he still had it on when I met him. Walking with us in the increasingly hot sun, carrying his soprano sax, the man looked overheated, but he took it all in stride, and, I recall, was as cordial and friendly a soul as I could hope to meet. Since that day I gushed with joy whenever I caught his trademark sound on albums by other artists, or the album pictured here. I am certain this understated busker's legacy will outshine many a megastar's.

Want to listen? Click here to see a video of Coxhill performing solo, or here to a video Coxhill with pop singer Song Newman.