Indianapolis-based tenor and alto saxophonist Rob Dixon partners with his old bandleader Charlie Hunter on Coast to Crossroads, along with trombonist Ernest Stuart and drummer Mike Clark, to craft an album of jazz-funk tunes mostly written by Dixon. It’s a stylish recording – produced by seven-string guitarist Hunter – that showcases a band capable of turning its hand to funk, blues, jazz or soul as occasion demands.
The uptempo shuffle of “Millions” should fill the dancefloors of any respectable jazz or blues club: Hunter’s seven-string guitar provides the walking bass while Clark’s drums ensure the shuffle never fails. Most of the other tracks follow this tune’s upbeat example. Slower numbers like “Memphis Bus Stop” and “California Love” (a tune written by Dr Dre and Tupac Shakur) are performed with economy – Dixon’s bluesy solo on the latter track is a prime example of his relaxed, laid-back, style when the tempo slows.
Dixon closes the album with a solo rendition of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “It Could Happen to You”. It’s a heartfelt and apparently spontaneous performance, which Hunter, in the producer’s role, has captured beautifully. “Wishing Well”, a late-80s hit for Terence Trent D’Arby, might at first seem like a more unusual choice, but as Dixon’s sax replaces D’Arby’s voice (not quite matching the singer’s swagger) and Clark’s drums set up the funky groove, the song fits effortlessly into the album. “87MPH” is a short, fast-driving, shuffle which emerged in the studio from a jam based around Clark’s drum beat. The tune typifies the spirit of Coast to Crossroads, an album that doesn’t stretch, let alone break, any boundaries but does provide a fun, enjoyable, 50 minutes of music.
(1) Yo; Memphis Bus Stop; Millions; California Love; San Leandro; Wishing Well; Black Mountain; Nag Champa; Flat Tire Blues; 87 MPH; (2) It Could Happen to You (50.00)
(1) Rob Dixon (as, ts); Ernest Stuart (tb); Charlie Hunter (elg); Mike Clark (d). (2) Omit Stuart, Hunter, Clark. New York, no date.