Rob Dixon entered the stage of the Burchfield Penney Art Center quietly. However, his prescient understanding of the event, the 92nd Birthday Celebration of John Coltrane, led him to a place where his sax echoed the familiar sounds of Coltrane. The sounds an audience of Coltrane admirers long for.
The first notes of “Lonnie’s Lament”, the opening number, set all eyes and ears on Dixon imposing presence on stage. The riveting solo runs by Dixon were an indication of what was to come in the next 90 minutes. He rolled into “Giant Steps” and the familiar head and melody of the Coltrane classic had the attention of the audience. “Central Park West” gave Dixon a chance to display versatility and command of the saxophone as he filled spaces with improvisational tones and color.
The favorite of the night was the Dixon intro to Coltrane’s love song to his wife, “Naima.” The trio backing Dixon, consisting of George Caldwell on piano, Danny Ziemann on bass, and Mike Melito on drums, laid back quietly so that the masterful sounds of Dixon’s intro solo can rise. There is no doubt that hearts were captivated by this song.
Dixon’s muscular command of the sax belies his innate ability to lure in the audience with subtle nuances of tonal beauty. A real delight as Dixon shined best when he was given ample room to put these nuances on display.
Preceding the evening performance was a performance of “Misty” by the about to be 16 years old Ahmad Pleasant. This year’s 1st place winner in the 2018 Buffalo’s Got Talent competition. Amazing tonal quality for a young age and “Misty” was a perfect tune to hear the evolving maturity in his playing. Amari McDade, a 10th grader sang “You Are So Beautiful” with George Caldwell accompaniment on piano. He showed nice poise at a young age, singing the song delicately and as the song states – beautifully.
The John Coltrane Birthday Celebration, presented by the Pappy Martin Legacy Jazz Collective, in association with the Burchfield Penney Art Center, continues Saturday, September 22, beginning at noon, with a full slate of activities ending with jazz legend, Gary Bartz. See the articles and event listings on JazzBuffalo for more information.
(Please note: the evening performance with Gary Bartz is sold out.)