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The Rob Dixon Trio: Coast to Crossroads

Mark Sullivan By

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Saxophonist Rob Dixon, who mainly plays a muscular tenor sax here, is based in Indiana (the Crossroads state) but also works a lot on the East and West Coasts—hence the album title. He has done three tours with guitarist Charlie Hunter's band, and the 7-string guitar phenomenon returns the favor here by both playing and producing the album. The core band is completed by legendary drummer Mike Clark (who made his name playing with pianist/composer Herbie Hancock in the 1970s), who Dixon had worked with on previous album projects. Brooklyn-based trombonist Ernest Stuart contributes front line harmonies, as well as hot solos on half of the tracks.

"Yo" opens the set like a funky statement of purpose, Dixon on alto saxophone with Stuart on the front line. Hunter plays his usual guitar and bass parts simultaneously—it's hard to accept that those parts are being played by one person, even seeing it happen live right in front of you—with the guitar using an organ sound, as he does through much of the album. The groove is the main thing, so locking-in with Clark's drums is the primary mission (rather than soloing). Mission accomplished. "Memphis Bus Stop" (born out of Dixon's experience) is a minor blues with a bass line reminiscent of the Albert King classic "Born Under a Bad Sign."

The up-tempo Tupac/Dr. Dre song "California Love" gets completely transformed into a slow blues—an unlikely but completely convincing choice. Hunter takes a masterful bluesy "organ" solo. The other pop cover reaches back to Terence Trent D'Arby's 1987 hit "Wishing Well." The arrangement keeps the original slow groove, with Clark shining on brushes. "Nag Champa" (named after the Indian incense that Dixon seems to constantly encounter in dressing rooms, all over the world) finds him experimenting with playing through a harmonizer like saxophonist Eddie Harris.

"Flat Tire Blues" gives Clark a chance to show off his trademark Texas shuffle beat, inspiring old school rhythm and blues testifying from the saxophonist. The album closes with an intimate, unaccompanied tenor interpretation of the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke standard "It Could Happen To You." A lovely moment of repose after such a funky workout.

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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