Akua Dixon: baritone violin, cello; Freddie Bryant: guitar; Kenny Davis: bass; Victor Lewis: drums + Ron Carter: bass; Russell Malone: guitar.
Born and raised in New York, cellist-composer-arranger Akua Dixon boasts a silky jazz style solidly anchored in African and Latin roots.
With an enviable musical background, Ms. Dixon recorded/performed with a panoply of superior artists, from the jazz masters Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie to pop icon David Byrne to soul diva Aretha Franklin.
In the 90’s, she led the Quartette Indigo, a chamber-jazz group that included violinists Regina Carter and Marlene Rice, and violist Ron Lawrence.
Akua’s Dance is her third album, a decorous follow-up to her 2015 eponymous CD, which besides famous jazz standards, included music from Mingus, Mancini, and Piazzolla.
In comparison to the previous, the new album shows a stronger personality since Ms. Dixon, besides jazz standards and pop hits, resolved to include a considerable number of exotic originals. In order to achieve a more full-bodied sound, she opted to play baritone violin in many of the songs.
Seven of the 10 tracks feature her habitual trio: guitarist Freddie Bryant, bassist Kenny Davis, and drummer Victor Lewis. On the remaining three tunes, guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Ron Carter contribute with their special touch and expertise.
“I Dream a Dream”, melodically driven by the epicurean Eastern-like sounds of Dixon’s baritone violin, is stimulated with a Brazilian rhythmic accent, in a clear incursion into world music.
Honoring the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie through a mix of swinging groove and Latin American beams, “Dizzy’s Smiles” is a gentle and hybrid compliment to the master. It features clear-spoken solos by Davis and Dixon, whose melodies, intentionally or not, reminisced the great standard “How About You”.
“If My Heart Could Speak To You” is a ballad that straddles between “Tenderly” and “Body and Soul”, while Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” is the only tune where we can listen to Dixon’s warm voice.
“Afrika! Afrika!”, marked by Dixon’s penetrating cello intro, Malone’s gallant guitar solo, and cool African vibes is probably the recording’s most pungent and absorbing song, together with “Akua’s Dance”, which features a sumptuous bass groove and acoustic guitar.
With no remarkable traits, Sade’s pop hit “The Sweetest Taboo” is also on the roster.
Dixon convenes a superb ensemble of top musicians to back her ideas and facilitate melodic expressiveness.
The sultry passion of Akua’s Dance will better please fans of mainstream and Latin jazz rather those seeking for something daring and unusual.
The force of the rhythmic cadences compensates the predictability of the harmonic passages, and you may tap your feet to the beat.
05 – Akua’s Dance ► 07 – Afrika! Afrika!