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Musical master gets marker, award

A musical master from Lawton has made his mark following 27 years of dedication and service at the Ohio university where he's been teaching.

Michael Cox (that's "Dr. Cox" to you and me) recently announced that at the Capital University Conservatory of Music, he has been recognized by the establishment  first, with a 25-year milestone marker at the foot of a campus tree and, secondly, with the award of his own ensemble.

"I am very moved by these points of honor," Cox said.

Cox has earned it. Along with his instructive talents  he is professor of saxophone and jazz studies at Capital  his talent allows him to perform as a tenor and alto saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist and soloist for the Columbus Jazz Orchestra. He's also a saxophonist with the Columbus Symphony. A busy guy, we haven't been able to get our paths crossed yet for a proper interview. He has described himself through his Facebook page and professional web page. 

"Music is my calling and mission," Cox said. "Performing, teaching, and creating, while bringing people together."

Cox's brother, the backbone of longtime local favorites Brothers DuPree, Danny Cox is more than happy to describe his brother. He calls him a "world class musician and American ambassador of music." Following a summer stint at the Shanghai Saxophone Festival where he served in that capacity, it's not a hyperbolic description.

In his artist's bio, Michael Cox credits his older brother with getting him started. Active in school music programs in his youth, at the age of 15 he was enlisted to join his brother performing on local stages.

"You can only imagine how proud I am of him," Danny Cox said. "I used to have to get permits for him to play with us clubs. Even at age 15 he was ripping the sax up."

Describing it as a challenge, the younger Cox said it was with his older brother that his confidence and abilities grew.

"That's when I had to learn to stand shoulder to shoulder with musicians 10-20 years older than me, play without charts, instead using my ear, learn tunes, and try to just make a positive contribution to the sound," Michael Cox said. "Where I may not have developed the world's greatest technique early on, I did learn about being musically mature. It's not something you can always explain, but it's something you feel."

He graduated from Cameron University before making his way to Wichita State University, where he earned his master's degree in music performance. He officially became "Dr. Cox" after earning his doctorate in saxophone performance and jazz pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado. In 2000, Cameron University honored him with one of its three alumni of the year awards, reflecting his commitment to academic tradition as well as his artistic pursuit of music as a performance art.

Although not a road-weary musician, Cox has had the opportunity to play on singular or special occasions with groups such as The Count Basie Orchestra, Don Henley and many others. In 1999, he released the highly acclaimed album "Abstractions, Dedications and Red Dirt." His Oklahoma roots run deep and have translated to the instruction of his students. 

"Some of his graduates are playing with Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder and who knows who else," Danny Cox said. "He has played with the who's who of the jazz and pop world  even country."

The younger brother credits the older with expanding his musical mind. Now, Michael Cox's role is similar, but with a wider range of annually arriving younger siblings. Influence leads to love like that, one shared from brother to brother or a teacher to his charges.

"Because of my particular background, my musical tastes were always diverse," Michael Cox said. "I always heard gospel, country and folk at home growing up; then my brother Ray had records by Al Hirt and Buddy Rich, and my other brother Danny had the rock stuff but later graduated to listening to jazz and what we called 'funk' or 'funky' music."

From there, Cox found himself.

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You ought to get down to Park Tavern in Medicine Park Saturday afternoon and enjoy some fantastic German beer, German food and good ol' American rockin' red dirt.

Cade Roth & The Black Sheep will be offering the soundtrack at 4 p.m. when they're house band for the Park Tavern Oktoberfest. Although it's 21-and-up, I'm pretty sure you'll hear the local favorites ripping it up outside and, weather permitting, with the venue's back door open.

Check out one of their barn burners from this year's Red Dirt Fest: nCade Roth & The Black Sheep  "Purple Rain"  https://youtu.be/MCjBuc5f6oA.

Keep your ears open for something special coming from these cats and some other terrific talent for the column's radio show's December Christmas special(s). Details coming soon. 

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Sunlander is readying a Halloween treat and will be warming up with a show tonight at Lawton's legendary Railhead Saloon, 909 S. Sheridan. 

The band  Ryan McGowan, guitar/vocals; Bentley Smith, guitar/vocals; and Dustin Ray, drums; David Maynor, bass  will open for The Kept and Self-Afflicted around 9 p.m. It'll be opportunity to catch these modern-prog/psychedelic masters performing songs from their upcoming full-length album, as well as a couple of tracks from the upcoming split EP with fellow space rangers Oberon. That six-song compilation, "The Divide" will be released Dec. 1 and the bands will team up for a show at the Railhead for a release party. 

"We're going to be releasing a song from both of our sides on Halloween," McGowan said. "They came to us asking if we had anything for a split (EP) and we scrapped together a few things in about two months."

Each band provided an instrumental number and all but one  an Oberon cover  are originals. McGowan said Sunlander's trio of offerings was put together relatively quickly. McGowan, Smith and Ray have been playing music together for a long time and work well as a unit.

"We had one written but never played," McGowan said. "Another was fragments of an idea and the other was a drum track Dustin (Ray) redid from a project he did with one of the guys from Merlin that we took and made our own."

McGowan said work on the band's full-length album continues. With the recent reminder of the last band's release of its debut album, "Red Sun God," five years ago, he said it provided a basis to grow into the new creation. The new work is based on Greek and Roman mythology with comic and space themes, he said. Its concept is influenced by Arthur C. Clarke's "2001" and focuses on the concept of culture attempting to define itself retroactively through science and myth. Following the end of Deadweight (and later Grel), Sunlander came into focus.

"We took about two years off to prep Sunlander stuff, which is weird to me," McGowan said. "It'll be a bit less heavy and a little more proggy."

Keep up with the band and like their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sunlanderband/.

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The columnist got an early listen to the Oberon/Sunlander split disc "The Divide" and I can't say enough positive about the experience. Self-produced, the production and performance all the way around is something stellar. That's fitting for a pair of bands that have no problem racing through the stars with their soundtracking through space and time.

Ada's Oberon have been going places sonically for a while. Leading the collection with "Antimatter VS Matter," these Ada-based space rockers are readying to pass Mars before NASA next hits the moon. It sounds like if Kyuss had cut a track for the "Heavy Metal" movie soundtrack. Taking it another direction with the instrumental "Whisper of the Whales," the spacescape becomes a stellar sea of mellowed calm. It dives as deep into musical meditation as the mighty oceanic mastodon plunges liquid depths.

The lone cover song offers an original take of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." They aren't afraid to have some fun with the revered energy boost of '80s nostalgia, and it pays off.

Sunlander kicks off its half with the Clutch-meets-Mastodon riffer "Aegir (Viking Poseidon)," a unique and original number that hard charges through 3 minutes that flow too fast. "Polybius" offers prog-meets-classic rock crunch over a classic undertone of movement. Upbeat and machine-precise, it makes the head want to bob up and down.

Closing with "Slow Burn," Sunlander's musicianship offers elements reminiscent of early Metallica before melting into something thick and groovy that contours influence into the band's original music without taking over.

The Dec. 1 release for this album can't come soon enough.

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Most of the guys from Sunlander, save the drummer, visited Studio Blanket/Tent Fort for this week's edition of "Today's Best Soundemonium ... for now!" with Steve Carr, a.k.a. Steve-O, and the columnist for a dose of silliness. They knocked out a couple of cool performances. One you heard was "Trinity 235." Another, "The Path," will show up in a future music mix edition of the show. 

Jokey McJokerson went up top for this week's joke minus the punchline. Here's the conclusion:

"High definition."

Tune in to Magic 95.3 FM Radio around 4:30 p.m. each Thursday or stream the half-hour show online: http://s1.phx.icastcenter.com/start/kmgz953/, on the Apple or Android apps or on the TuneIn app, or: http://www.kmgz.com/. 

Visit, "like" ("love") and follow our Facebook page ://www.facebook.com/steveoandthescribe/.The two-part video slide show with audio from the first all-performance episode, along with the very first episode, are found in the "Video" folder. Check it out. Volume II is coming soon.

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Bookmark the site and visit weekly for online features every Friday at swoknews.com to enjoy a full feature experience with a quick click on any of the video links to get a full experience at your fingertips. Bookmark the column's YouTube channel and visit the library of exclusive videos from the column's archive featuring some of the best past local (and visiting) talent that's graced Southwest Oklahoma's stages. More added often:

Soundemonium Musaic Lawton music archive homepage: Scott Rains  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPw__GedGPOUD-wROFcuZ8w.

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