[JPL] New Orleans jazz spirited musician

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New Orleans jazz spirited musician

asilvers at journalsentinel.com

Posted: March 14, 2007

Before Norrie Cox ever set foot in America, he fell in love with the music
called New Orleans jazz.

His accent may have been English, but the voice of his clarinet was pure New
Orleans - what he regarded as the original American jazz - not the more
widely heard Dixieland sound.

"The older musicians I admired were black," he told Milwaukee Sentinel
columnist William Janz in 1994. "Blacks invented blues, gospel, and jazz
music, and we've exploited them from Day 1. Rock 'n' roll, rhythm and blues
were all black music."

And, as Cox played to older and older white audiences, he feared that the
music he loved might disappear forever.

"It was suddenly absolutely clear we had to get kids back to playing it,"
Cox said.

So he became a teacher, too.

Norman S. Cox - his given, but seldom used, name - died of apparent heart
problems March 7. He was 75. He and his wife, Gwen Cox, long lived in Elm
Grove and Brookfield.

Cox, the son of a gift musician, grew up near London. At 19, his father gave
him a clarinet.

"He taught himself to play and improvise, and he had his own band in
England," Gwen Cox said.

The years that followed included training as a mechanical engineer, service
with the Royal Air Force and marriage to Gwen. A job brought them to the
United States in 1966, first to Columbus, Ind., and then to Michigan.

In 1971, they moved to the Milwaukee area, where he began working for
Waukesha Engine before working as a chief engineer for Harley-Davidson. Cox
began playing music again, first with a Civil War band, which required that
he learn to read music.

But New Orleans jazz kept calling him. By about 1980, he joined the
Riverboat Ramblers, becoming its leader within a few years. He also began
playing with a long list of bands, including the Norrie Cox Good Time Jazz,
the Norrie Cox Good Time Jazz Trio, Norrie Cox and His New Orleans Stompers
and Chicago Hot Six.

He finally decided to give up his day job - then as a partner in an
automotive diesel repair shop - to make music full time.

"He was certainly known nationally," said Roy Rubinstein, a friend and
fellow musician. He played with Cox's Good Time Jazz combo at the Bavarian
Inn the second Wednesday of each month, and Cox played with Rubinstein's
Chicago Hot Six.

"He played in various places in the United States, and he made several
recordings," Rubinstein said. Cox also became known for his work with

In 1988, Cox began the New Orleans Jazz Band of Explorer Post 622,
unofficially known as the Crescent City Stompers, sponsored by the Boys &
Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. There he taught young people the art of
collective jazz improvisation, all with the idea of keeping real New Orleans
jazz alive.

"That was his thing," said Carvis Braxton, earlier in Boy Scout leadership,
who encouraged Cox to launch the Explorer post. "I remember him teaching
kids how to play the scrub board."

His young musicians traveled to New Orleans and also performed in Milwaukee,
including with Doc Severinsen.

"There's an old tune, named after trombone player Kid Ory, called 'Do What
Ory Say,' " Janz wrote. "When the kids play it, they sing, 'Do What Norrie
Say.' "

"He was still teaching," his wife said. "Music was what he wanted to do.
That was his passion."

Other survivors include daughter Sally Peterson; sons Robin and Martin;
grandchildren; and brothers and sisters in England.

A memorial gathering and musical farewell were held Wednesday at the
Bavarian Inn.

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>From the March 15, 2007 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

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