The important cellists, of whom Akua Dixon is surely one, are almost by definition incredible thinkers (in the non-verbal medium of notes). The most important of these inspire thought in their listeners. Akua’s Dance triggered in this one a series of musings on the nature of maturity, musical and otherwise. Here we have a series of ten works, six of them extraordinary, even profound works written by the extraordinary supreme cellist herself, who plays and discovers their profundity in a soaring, expressive manner. The breathtaking manner of her playing – not only her own work, but that of other composers, including the one vocal track: a melancholic elegy by Abbey Lincoln “Throw It Away” – accentuates the wiry idiom of each work.
Great artists usually evoked in discussions of the cello are Oscar Pettiford and Frederick Katz. The presiding deity, however, – his spirit pervades the entire performance – is Abdul Wadud. But it is Akua Dixon’s vice we hear throughout the music of Akua’s Dance. The breadth and strength of utterance, the depth, power and unshowy brilliance of the musicianship, the uncanny blend of rhetoric and intimacy – on both cello and baritone violin – all combine to reveal a truly symphonic, developmental drama of unassailable integrity from “I Dream A Dream” to the mortifying melancholy of “I’m Gonna Tell God All Of My Troubles” and the majestic curtain call, “Don’t Stop”. ‘Mature’ is the shunning of the superfluous – a virtue in “Akua’s Dance” – its three-dimensional textural perspectives finding depths where lesser artists see only the surface, and as in the Negro Spiritual “I’m Gonna Tell God All Of My Troubles”, a sweeping characterisation of entire passages as part of a unified dramatic whole.
The roaring, leonine finale of “Afrika! Afrika!” is another masterpiece – indeed rightfully Utopian – in the high spirits of its finale serves as a counter pole to the weighty, big-boned drama of the spiritual and the youthful, lovelorn musings of “The Sweetest Taboo”. All of these performances by Akua Dixon are unfailingly stylish accounts of music on an instrument known for its sensuous, beguiling nature, which is often hard to master. But then Akua Dixon is one such masterful virtuoso, well on the way to greatness if she continues in this manner. We await new work always with bated breath and hope that she will also bring along the thrilling partnership with this almighty group of musicians: Ron Carter, Victor Lewis, Russell Malone,Kenny Davis and, of course, the prodigiously talented Freddie Bryant as well. Then we shall surely see works performed like this: with intensity, significance and transcendental majesty.
Track List: 1: I Dream A Dream; 2: Dizzy’s Smile; 3: If My Heart Could Speak To You; 4: Orion’s Gait; 5: Akua’s Dance; 6: Throw It Away; 7: Afrika! Afrika!; 8: The Sweetest Taboo; 9: I’m Gonna Tell God All Of My Troubles; 10: Don’t Stop.
Personnel: Akua Dixon: baritone violin (1, 2, 5, 8, 10), cello, voice; Freddie Bryant: guitar (1, 2, 5, 6, 8-10); Kenny Davis: bass (1, 2, 5, 6, 8-10); Victor Lewis: drums; Russell Malone: guitar (3, 4, 7); Ron Carter: bass (3, 4, 7).