Sly Foxx

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 12:00am

He's in a select circle of performers like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra — larger-than-life types who've won Academy Awards as actors and scored No. 1 singles as recording artists.

Yet Jamie Foxx, who'll perform in concert Saturday night at the Sommet Center, actually wanted to be a pro football quarterback in his youth. A talented athlete as well as a bright student, Foxx was the first person to pass for 1,000 yards while playing for his high school team in Terrell, Tex. He was also an excellent basketball player.

But ultimately music and acting proved a stronger lure, as Foxx would slowly but surely develop into both a top actor and prolific vocalist and pianist. His rise in multiple fields has been one of the more amazing stories in recent entertainment history, particularly because Foxx has frequently taken roles in otherwise forgettable projects and made them pivotal stepping stones.

Fresh off hosting duties for The BET Awards (an event that generated lots of controversy for a series of less than tasteful events), he's now in the midst of a 30-city tour that encompasses Saturday's Nashville stop. Foxx is also still enjoying the fruits of his recent hit single "Blame It," which has garnered more than a million downloads and cracked both the Pop and R&B Top Ten.

The fast-talking, clever, always-ready-with-a-quip persona that's frequently on display during television appearances was honed during a stint on In Living Color, plus roles on Roc and his own self-titled sitcom.

Subsequently he demonstrated a flair for drama by tapping his athletic roots, portraying a talented but self-destructive figure in Oliver Stone's 1999 football drama Any Given Sunday. That in turn led to his collaboration with Tom Cruise in the Michael Mann thriller Collateral, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

But it was his brilliant performance in Ray that elevated Foxx into the acting stratosphere. In many interviews he gave that year (2004), Foxx talked about the way Ray Charles tested him before filming began. He'd take Foxx aside and sit him at the piano. There, he would give him informal lessons, asking tough questions about harmonies, chord changes and song structure, while also providing him with side stories and vocal nuances. Fox utilized those gems in a performance that had veteran Charles' observers like Hank Crawford (who played with Charles for many years) saying, "I thought I was watching Ray Charles on the screen."

Foxx hasn't always equaled that high in subsequent films, though he was excellent earlier this year when teamed with Robert Downey Jr. in The Soloist. Other appearances in such movies as The Kingdom, Jarhead, Miami Vice, Ali and Dreamgirls have ranged from good to disposable, but all these films made money and have helped make Foxx one of the top box office draws in Hollywood.

He's also among the few marquee actors who is a full-fledged hitmaker as a singer. A pianist since the age of 5 and a soulful singer whose voice can be mellow or bluesy, Foxx has scored in both the urban and country fields. Songs like "Slow Jamz" with Twista and Kanye West and "Golddigger" with West have topped the R&B charts, and Foxx's last two discs have both soared high on the Billboard charts. His current release Intuition matches Foxx with contemporary urban stars like Ne-Yo, T-Pain, TI and Marsha Ambrosius among others.

In addition to his urban, R&B and hip-hop successes, Foxx grew up listening to plenty of country music and has a true love for the genre. He appeared on the CMA awards show a couple of years ago performing alongside Rascal Flatts (whom he's also recorded with) and in April he was among the stars doing songs at the George Strait All-Star concert. Foxx has frequently said he wants to do a complete country project, and that's something he'll probably do in the near future.

But if acting and singing weren't enough, Jamie Foxx is also an extremely funny guy. His monologues, impersonations and routines on In Living Color became a prominent part of the show, and he puts those talents to good use in the weekly radio show he hosts on Sirius Satellite radio dubbed "The Foxxhole." This free-for-all program features Foxx and an array of co-hosts and contributors, including Johnny Mack, Donald "Speedy" Caldwell, Claudia Jordan, The Poetess and Lewis Dix.

Past shows have included such special guests as Snoop Dogg, Nas and various other actors and musicians. Foxx and his cohorts take full advantage of the uncensored environment to dish on political and cultural issues, fashion mistakes and dubious behavior by celebrities (as well as whatever else Foxx decides to cover). The language is salty, the tone irreverent, yet there's frequently nuggets of satirical brilliance that pop up through the torrent of comedic lines, quips and insults.

Though he sometimes goes too far (a recent X-rated rant aimed at Miley Cyrus was so harsh Foxx later apologized on The Tonight Show with then-host Jay Leno), "The Foxxhole" represents yet another forum that spotlights the personality and flair of multi-entertainment threat Jamie Foxx.

Who: Singer, songwriter and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx in concert
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Sommet Center, 501 Broadway
Cost: $49.75, $69.75
Info: 770-2000,