Remembering Kenn Cox, cultural warrior

Kenn Cox

Kenn Cox at Baker's during the summer of 2007. (Photo: W. Kim Heron)

Detroit’s jazz community mourned the loss of pianist and musical activist Kenn Cox on Saturday — even as folks celebrated his life. Years ago, percussionist-composer Francisco Mora Catlett dedicated a piece titled “The Cultural Warrior” to Cox. It was more than apt.

The crowd of mourners overflowed the sanctuary at St. Matthew’s-St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church in Detroit where the service included a performance of the Jazz Mass that stands as one of Kenn’s major projects. During the family hour before the service, Detroit poet Melba Boyd read this tribute, which she has graciously shared with us:

Working It Out

“A lot of people have died for this music

,” Kenn Cox

black keys


with ivory

like oblique

irony in



Chopin sonatas

confer with

Strayhorn symphonics

Monk disrupts

with tempos

linked like dominoes

this dialogue occurs

with Kenn Cox

composing jazz

suites on piano

without primacy

in Multidirection

or as Guerrilla Jams

engaging a dystrophic


as night falls

on dim streets

blue notes

stud starlight

at high altitudes

Kenn Cox

at the keys

channeling ebony

freely through

the integrity

of well-honed


—melba joyce boyd

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