"The potential for the saxophone is unlimited." - Steve Lacy

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Soprano Saxophone Great, Lol Coxhill (September 19, 1932 - July 10, 2012)

Lol Coxill
I was very sad when I received an email last night from pianist Ethan Iverson informing me of the passing of soprano saxophone great Lol Coxhill. Born September 9, 1932, Lol was one of the slew of cutting edge, experimental musicians to come out of Britain's Canterbury music scene in the late sixties and seventies.

Some of Lol's greatest work was in the solo and duet formats. He was infamous for his collaborative duos with pianist Steve Miller and guitarist G.F. Fitzgerald. Unlike many free players, Lol often opted for melodicism over noise and texture. In some ways his playing always sounded like a concoction of Lucky Thompson and Anthony Braxton.

A. Braxton and B. Gallanter
I first came across Lol about 10 years ago while CD browsing at the Downtown Music Gallery. This was back when the vanguard music store of experimental music was on Bowery St and Second Street in the East Village. I told the owner Bruce Gallanter that I was trying to expand my library of soprano sax players. He subsequently pulled several Evan Parker and Roscoe Mitchell recordings off the shelf for me to check out.  And as I was deciding on which CDs I was going to purchase, he said "Oh by the way, you should check out this English guy Lol Coxhill."

 I can't remember which CD of his I listened to first, but I do remember that I was hooked from the very first track. And I think it was his sound and sense of melody that intrigued me the most. Since I knew he was a part of the improvised music scene with players like Evan Parker and John Butcher, I was expecting something a lot more abstract and noise-oriented. However, I could tell right away that he had his own unique approach that separated him,  not only from those guys, but from all the other saxophonists on the improvised music scene.

I sent Lol and email several months ago asking him if he would agree to do an interview with me for my blog. Not knowing that he was sick and in the hospital at the time, I was sad to read the email response his wife sent me informing me that he was ill and in the hospital and was unable to give interviews at that time. I know this is selfish of me, but  I was always hoping in the back of my mind that I would someday check my AOL inbox and find an email from him saying that he was feeling much better and was ready to give me my interview.

Unfortunately, that day never came. And I never got my chance to have my fireside chat with him, hoping that he would bestow upon me his great wisdom and knowledge about his relationship with the soprano saxophone. But I am, however, forever grateful for all of the great music he left behind.

Here's a clip of Lol playing solo, doing what he did best, filmed by visual artist Helen Petts at her home in London on February 19, 2011.

Thanks, Lol, for sharing your world with the world. R.I.P.


  1. There was always a great beauty in Lol's soprano voice. It is already missed here.

  2. He was a great player and improviser; I wish that I would have had to opportunity to hear him in concert.

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  4. I'm really sad to be just learning about Lol in this way. What an interesting player, and what a beautiful sense of melody. I've really enjoyed discovering his recordings. It's disappointing to me that he was below my radar...

    Thanks for posting this!

  5. Very sad indeed. Improvised music has lost one of its great practitioners, and a genuinely nice person. Many years ago I had the pleasure of staying with Lol at his home for a few days. He was most generous with his time, and knowledge of music past and present. He enriched my listening experiences greatly.

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