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Music Review: Dixon-Rhyne Project – Reinvention

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Here’s a case of old school meets new school.

Saxophonist Rob Dixon, who we earlier introduced as a key player in Derrick Gardner’s Jazz Prophets, is another Indianapolis-based jazz talent who’s been getting notice since the mid-nineties as an up and comer, for both his playing and composing.

Hammond B3 organ maestro Melvin Rhyne, on the other hand, has been around much longer. He was the organist in Wes Montgomery’s band on and off between 1959 and 1964, appearing on some of Montgomery’s vital Riverside releases, including The Wes Montgomery Trio and Boss Guitar. Since the nineties, he’s recorded as leader on a semi-regular basis.

Dixon got the idea to assemble an organ-sax-guitar-drums combo that would take that greasy organ-based jazz popularized by Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff into the twenty-first century. He enlisted Rhyne — who’s nearly twice his age — to make sure the music never forgets its roots. Then, he added jam-band Garaj Mahal guitarist Fareed Haque. Funky drummer Kenny Phelps rounds out the group.

The combination of the past and present works flawlessly on Reinvention. Their sound is perhaps closest to jam-band practitioners Soulive, but with a little smoother delivery and more succinct soloing.

All but one of the songs here were penned by Dixon and they’re tight, varied and in the pocket. From the James Brown stutter rhythm of “Repub Club” to the buoyant “Fantstic Prizes,” these guys are sweatin’ on every track. Even Kenny Burrell’s well-worn “Chit’lins Con Carne” is given a modernized treatment that makes it blend right in alongside Dixon’s own songs.

While the 71 year old Rhyne seems right at home being at the center of this modern groove machine, Haque is arguably its secret weapon. He’s bringing Pat Martino to songs like “Mel’s Groove” and “Carousel,” and George Benson to other selections like “Prizes.” On “Tommorrow Sierra,” Haque goes for a more rock-oriented sound, and surprisingly, blends it in well with Rhyne’s B3. Haque’s wiggy solo on “Mind’s Eye” (see the video below) is all his own, though.

Oh yeah, and Dixon himself does a real nice job riding on top of Rhyne and creates his solos efficiently without resorting to overused phrases. “Shadow And Light” and “Repub” Club” are some fine showcases for his well-developed technique.

It wouldn’t be hard to draw a line between between Wes Montgomery and contemporary funk-jazz, but the connection between the two is now much closer. Rob Dixon and Melvin Rhyne successfully bridge the two on Reinvention. Just more proof that there’s exciting, fresh takes on old school jazz coming out of Indianapolis these days. It’s a tradition started by Montgomery himself.

Reinvention went on sale June 25. If you’re looking a good groover with some solid playing all around, this one’s a good choice.

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  • Nicely done Pico. Will have to check this one out.


  • you had me at “Hammond B3 organ”