Fostina Dixon releases her new recording, New Beginnings

Article Contributed by Jazz Promo Services | Published on Saturday, February 11, 2023

For an astonishing number of decades, alto, soprano, and baritone saxophonist Fostina Dixon has performed and recorded with a star-studded roster of musicians, from Frank Foster, Roy Ayers, and Abbey Lincoln, to Melba Liston, Gil Evans, and Marvin Gaye; has been one of the most accomplished artists on her instrument; and has been a master teacher to generations of students. Yet for all of her accomplishments, Dixon has only recorded a few albums as a leader. Her self-produced, new CD, New Beginnings - featuring vocalist Ty Causey and keyboardist Gail Jhonson - is a ten-track, contemporary jazz tour-de-force that soothes the mind moves the heart, and grooves the body.

“For me, in my heart of hearts, [the CD] is a new beginning for me to just be who I am. And for me to be the best that I can be,” Dixon says. “My inspiration for putting out this CD is my passion for music. I like playing music. I think it's important to stay visible to your fans, and when you've written enough music, you should document it. Ten years from now, I’ll have something to show where my heart was, or where my mind was, at this particular time in my life.”

The tracks on New Beginnings, produced by Dixon, Jhonson, Bill Jolly, and Dennis Fortune, showcase Dixon’s beautiful musical mind at work. The CD’s moods and grooves range from the bouncy opener, “A Better Way,” to Dixon’s cool cover of the Bruno Mars/Anderson. Paak/Silk Sonic soul ballad, “Leave the Door Open,” and the quiet storm track “For Your Love,” with Causey’s caressing vocal, to the anthemic, “Momentum,” “Sketched” and “Creek Lane,” two selections that showcase Jhonson’s piano solos. Other standout tracks include the mellow-toned “Sunburst” and the Latin tinged, “Nevertheless.”

“When I played on ‘Nevertheless,’ I did think of Gato Barbieri, because I just love his playing,” Dixon fondly recalls. “I love his passion and I love his tone. So I can say I probably did feel his spirit. On ‘Sunburst,’ I felt the energy of Grover Washington, Jr., which is so weird because I'm listening more to Grover now than I ever had. I’m just now realizing what an all-encompassing, versatile musician he was.”

Dixon’s appreciation for Washington, and for contemporary jazz grew after the release of her Vertical Alignment CD in 2019. “As I matured, I came to realize that It takes another skill [set] to play contemporary music,” Dixon says. When I play contemporary music, I have to leave some notes out, fall into a pocket, and stay in that pocket for as long as I can…for people to groove in that thing.”

People have been grooving to Dixon’s music for a long time. Born in Wilmington, Dixon took up the clarinet at the age of eight and started playing baritone saxophone later. She was good enough to play in the De La Warr High School band as a pre-teen and later played in the jazz band at St. Marks High School. Dixon studied with local jazz legend Robert Boysie Lowery, who taught Clifford Brown. She went to Boston University as a pre-med student, transferred to Berklee College of Music, and left to play in Marvin Gaye’s big band on the West Coast.

“I got the gig with Marvin when I went to California one summer. I wanted to be around some new musicians. My cousin Sonny loved jazz,” Dixon recalls. “He took me to all the jazz joints…Frank Morgan was leading a jam session. I sat in on the jam session. The music director for Marvin Gaye told me to come and audition for the band the next day. I got the gig, and did not return back to Berklee.” While on the gig with Marvin Gaye, Dixon earned her BFA at California Institute of the Arts.

Dixon would go on to work with a staggering number of musicians including Gil Evans, Roy Ayers, Tom Browne, Charlie Persip, Melba Liston, Cab Calloway, Slide Hampton, Frank Foster, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Bobby Vinton, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gerald Wilson, Charlie Persip, Melba Liston, Cab Calloway, and Slide Hampton.

Her previous records include Vertical Alignment (2019), Here We Go Again (2016), and Yesterday, Today & Forever (2010).

Dixon, who earned her MA in Educational Leadership from Wilmington University, retired from a long career as a music teacher in 2017, teaching students from Delaware to New York, and she founded The Wilmington Youth Jazz Band in 2004.

Whatever idiom Fostina Dixon plays in - be it straight ahead, gospel, or contemporary jazz - she will always sound like herself. “Whenever I play a song [I try to be] true to that song, and true to myself. So, I play with honesty, with whatever music I'm playing at whatever time.”