By Howard Mandel | Published March 2017
Baritone violin is Akua Dixon’s instrument of choice for the bulk of Akua’s Dance, her third album as a leader.
The power Dixon projects may indeed owe something to her ax. But as she flows through repertoire that ranges from her own compositions to Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away,” Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo” and the spiritual “I’m Gonna Tell God All Of My Troubles,” it’s clear Dixon could make music from shear depth experience if she were limited to a diddley-bo.
Two sets of accompanists frame and interact with Dixon’s noble tone and elegant pace. Fleet guitarist Freddie Bryant, solid bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Victor Lewis are members of her standing quartet; also abetted by Lewis, generously attentive guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Ron Carter are guest artists with whom she enjoys comfortable rapport. The shift from one group to the other is seamless, although Carter’s low-octave arco/pizzicato part on “Afrika! Afrika!” is supplied with unmatchable aplomb.
Warmth and decorum suffuse much of Akua’s Dance, although the title track conveys an air of mystery and tango-like tension, too. Throughout the musicians proceed with due self-confidence, freely imaginative but never flinging themselves or their material to the winds.
In all combinations, the strings step lively to Victor Lewis’ nimble rhythms. Dixon is fortunate to have such partners, who naturally follow her lead.
Akua’s Dance: I Dream A Dream; Dizzy’s Smile; If My Heart Could Speak To You; Orion’s Gait; Akua’s Dance; Throw It Away; Afrika! Africka!; The Sweetesst Taboo; I’m Gonna Tell God All of My Troubles; Don’t Stop. (58:59)
Personnel: Akua Dixon, baritone violin, cello, voice; Victor Lewis, drums; Freddie Bryant, guitar (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10); Kenny Davis, bass (1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10); Russell Malone, guitar (3, 4, 7); Ron Carter, bass (3, 4, 7).