The annual RNCM Saxophone Day in Manchester has previously attracted US stars such as Chris Potter and Eric Marienthal as headliners. This year the evening concert will be given by an undersung local hero, who has recently joined the conservatoire’s teaching faculty, Iain Dixon. Preview/portrait by Charles Rees
Iain Dixon is something of an enigma on the British jazz scene. For the last 25 years, he has been one of the most internationally in-demand and experienced session musicians, appearing on albums such as Michael Brecker’s Wide Angles, Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, Mike Gibbs’ By the Way… and The Talented Mr. Ripley soundtrack for example. And yet he has never recorded an album as leader and, these days, seems to perform rarely. For those of us who so admire his music, he invariably leaves us wanting more.
One of the many aspects that makes Iain’s playing so majestic is the way he has assimilated the complete history of the saxophone. Hear him for just a few minutes, and influences which range from Ben Webster to Eddie Harris, Joe Lovano to Stanley Turrentine are audible. Iain has evolved that eclectic mix into a completely individual sound; the perfect blend of unrelenting energy and power, yet with sensitivity and thought backing every phrase. This personality, coupled with his technical mastery and legendary knowledge of harmony, make his playing constantly enticing to listeners.
By way of introduction, this recording of Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker’s composition “Speak to Me of Home” by The Impossible Gentlemen from their album Let’s Get Deluxe features Iain on soprano sax. His solo is a beautifully crafted journey from the soft-natured melody to a far more intense solo section, exploring the full range of the instrument along the way…
Here is a recommended list of other recordings featuring Iain in settings ranging from trio to octet to even strings:
- Dave Green Trio, Time Will Tell
- David Newton, DNA
- Mike Walker, Ropes
- Alan Barnes, A Dotty Blues
- Julian Argüelles, Skull View
As well as his credentials as a master of the sax, Iain is an accomplished clarinettist; not to mention a highly respected educator, to which he has dedicated much of his time. I had the privilege of studying with Iain for several years and can attest that his dedication to his students is matched only by his skill as a musician. Many young players breaking onto the music scene will freely admit how much they owe Iain for their success, and I count myself among them.
Iain headlines this year’s renowned annual RNCM Saxophone Day, joining the likes of Chris Potter and Eric Marienthal – featured in previous years. As part of this role, he is set to perform with his quartet at the RNCM Theatre. Featured is a powerhouse rhythm section of Les Chisnall on piano, Steve Watts on bass and Andrew Bain on drums. This concert represents a rare opportunity to hear Iain perform on his own terms, able to choose the music and players – he will no doubt thrive in this setting. Tickets are still available at just £15. Not to be missed.
LINKS: RNCM Saxophone Day