Virtuoso cellist Akua Dixon is one of the few exclusive practitioners of the instrument in jazz. Whether in a supportive role or leading her Quartette Indigo she deftly fuses intimate chamber decorum and spontaneous ingenuity for an elegant and vibrant style that is hard to pigeonhole. She spices her eponymous release with Latin passion and an understated, earthy groove making it uniformly fresh and delightful.
The album opens on a high note with bassist Charles Mingus' fiery "Haitian Fight Song." Violinist John Blake's muscular, bluesy sound pierces the haunting backdrop the ensemble creates. Dixon's son, drummer Orion Turre lays down a series restless and electrifying rhythmic vamps that together with bassist Kenny Davis' throbbing reverberations propel the dynamic piece. The fact that this is one of Blake's last recordings before his untimely death makes it even more poignant.
On the lyrical Cuban ballad ''A Gozar Con Mi Combo" Blake and Davis share the spotlight with Dixon and guest violinist Regina Carter. Carter, a past member of Quartette Indigo, brings breathtaking agility and a sophisticated vibrancy to her longing wistful improvisation. Her mellifluous phrases glide over Davis' dark, intriguing tones and charmingly complement Dixon's own emotive, eloquent solo.
Dixon switches to voice on the ethereal rendition of composer Richard Rodgers' "It Never Entered My Mind." Her expressive, wordless vocalese is intensely dramatic and distinctly spiritual. Her daughter, vocalist Andromeda Turre, meanwhile showcases a remarkable emotional range and artistic finesse on pianist/composer Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life." She articulates, with equal brilliance, unbridled joy and fragile melancholy.
The sublime take on singer Consuelo Velazquez's oft recorded "Besame Mucho" features violinist Patrisa Tomassini and violist Ina Paris' stirring and ardent dialogue. The two classically trained performers, who are part of Dixon's working quartet, eschew the saccharine character of the original melody in favor of an abstractly poetic and confidently emotive interpretation.
Another current member of Quartette Indigo, violinist Gwen Laster shines with her impeccable sense of swing on pianist Nat Simon's "Poinciana." A Belle Epoque-ish radiance imbues the standard's Cuban folk motifs. The tune shimmers with pastel colored hues that tumble from the ensemble's resonant strings.
It is quite curious that Dixon has lead as few sessions as she has as listening to this graceful gem makes for an engaging and enjoyable experience. This CD is a testament that her small discography is not because of dearth of talent nor for a lack of innovative ideas as she is a superlative musician and a splendid bandleader.
Haitian Fight Song; Alone Together; Freedom; It Never Entered My Mind; A Gozar Con Mi Combo; Moon River; Libertango; Lush Life; Besame Mucho; Poinciana.
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