“On!” by Jordon Dixon a superior sophomore effort

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Tenor saxophonist Jordon Dixon has put together a tight ensemble of players to bring his follow-up album to life. A collection of nine original tracks (one of which gets reprised in an alternate version, which makes a total of ten tracks on the recording), “On!” is a surprisingly refreshing take on the traditions of soul, jazz and hard bop. There are bluesy moments, too. The quintet of players shine on the songs and audiences will likely be hard pressed to pick a favorite song from the release.

Dixon’s latest album is self-released, but it has all the polish of a so-called traditionally recorded album. More importantly, the talent is there. All the polish and production in the world cannot hide a lack of talent. While all the songs on “On!” are worth multiple listens, two that stand out are “Way Too Serious” and “Flame and Friction.”

About Jordon Dixon

Dixon began playing the saxophone at age 12. By age 15, the teen was sitting in with professional musicians and playing in clubs. Unlike some musicians, Dixon’s route to full-time professional musicianship was a bit circuitous. Instead of the typical high school to college to graduate school with some performing along the way, Dixon entered the US Marine Corps. While enlisted, he served as a musician. Eleven years later, upon his honorable discharge, Dixon enrolled in the music program at the University of Washington D.C.

His musical knowledge and talent caught the attention of one of his professors, Rusty Hassan. Hassan writes the liner notes for Dixon’s latest release. He also has worked as a jazz broadcaster for more than 50 years. Hassan heard Dixon’s debut CD, “A Conversation Among Friends,” which was released around the same time as the saxophonist was preparing to do his senior recital. Hassan liked the recording so much he played it on his jazz program on WPFW-FM.

Dixon majored in Jazz Studies. And, now, with his second  release and slightly different lineup of musicians, he is poised to make an even bigger name for himself.

“On!” by Jordon Dixon

The sound of “On!” is classic. The jazz isn’t “smooth,” as in the subgenre, but it is smooth in terms of its delivery. As effective music often does, the tracks on “On!” have the power to make listeners to feel as though they are being shown the roots and evolution of jazz. The music is serious, but not always solemn, and the music is not treated as novelty. Each track engages, which does not always happen.

“Way Too Serious” by Jordon Dixon

The song opens with a jaunty motif by Dixon. The tenor saxophone is at the forefront of the soundscape. Still, the drums push the song and the energy. The piano and bass work together effectively, and when each instrument gets a showcase, it is a nice surprise. The piano is especially “tinkly”; the showcases lead back into the main motif of the song. Sparse drum beats signal a change in approach. Everything happens quickly. Trying to figure out where each note intersects with another is much like charting dancer’s steps. It might be possible, but at best it will be difficult, and at worst it will distract audiences from the art being played.

“Flame and Friction” by Jordon Dixon

The song opens with a sparse, blues-inspired upright bass motif. Each note seems to take on a life of its own, and audiences do not have to strain to hear each string’s vibration. Hearing each aspect of the notes gives the song a live feel. The placement of the bass at the forefront of the soundscape makes listeners curious about where the song will go next.

As the bass continues, in a subtle move, the drums enter with a shimmering roll. The piano comes in, as well. The other instruments compliment the bass, but don’t overwhelm it. When the tenor saxophone offers up its own bluesy sound, the piece gains texture and nuance.

“Flame and Friction” has such a lived-in, old-school sound that those who did not know better would be sure that the song was a tribute track.

“On!” will be available June 7, 2019 from iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.

 

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