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Rob Dixon: Coast to Crossroads

Chris M. Slawecki By

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"The album is called Coast to Crossroads because I'm based in Indiana, the Crossroads state, but I also work a lot on the West Coast and East Coast," explains saxophonist Rob Dixon, who leads this trio session with drummer Mike Clark and seven-string funk guitar maven Charlie Hunter (who also served as producer), plus occasional guest trombonist Ernest Stuart.

Personal connections between the three principals enable their musical connections to flow richly and deep: Indianapolis Jazz Hall of Famer Dixon played saxophone for guitarist Hunter on three different tours, and for Clark on the drummer's 2010 solo album Carnival of Soul (Owl) plus the Headhunters' album released the following year, Platinum (Owl). Dixon's pals provide a serious rhythmic wallop. Hunter plucks layer after layer of funk from the bottom two of his seven-stringed guitar, and Dixon once described Clark thusly: "Nobody can play funk like him and nobody can play a shuffle like him."

Fans of classic Houston Person, Junior Walker and King Curtis will thoroughly enjoy this romp through feel-good, gutsy rhythm and blues. Seething deep rhythms kick off "Yo" slinky and hot, with Dixon honoring these titans not only in his soulful horn sound but in its sharp attack, which stabs into and then dances away from the beat. Clark approximates Bernard Purdie with his snare rolls and cymbal pops, stretching the boogaloo beat into the 21st century, while Hunter's guitar radiates thick gooey chords that sound like a Hammond B-3.

Annotator Bill Milkowski notes that trombonist Ernest Stuart plays "Fred Wesley to Dixon's Pee Wee Ellis" in the loping blues "Millions" and in "San Leando," where Stuart's trombone doubles Dixon's funky sax melody in thick blue-colored lines.

But Dixon's two covers blow Coast to Crossroads completely off the map. His saxophone cuts as quick and dapper as Terrence Trent D'Arby's original soulful vocal on "Wishing Well," the number one pop hit from D'Arby's 1987 Columbia debut; and his slow-burning arrangement stomps "California Love" (written by Dr. Dre, Tupac Shakur and Roger Troutman for Shakur's 1996 monster All Eyez on Me on Death Row) into a bump and grinding blues.

Dixon draws the closing curtain with a romantic, unaccompanied solo reflection of the dreamy "It Could Happen to You."

Track Listing: Yo; Memphis Bus Stop; Millions; California Love; San Leandro; Wishing Well; Black Mountain; Nag Champa; Flat Tire Blues; 87 MPH; It Could Happen to You.

Personnel: Rob Dixon: saxophone; Charlie Hunter; guitar; Mike Clark: drums; Ernest Stuart: trombone.

Title: Coast to Crossroads | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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