Akua Dixon

Akua Dixon's Biography

Cellist, composer and conductor Akua Dixon has been touring the world for the more than 40 years with her music for string quartet. A native New Yorker, she premiered her music for string quartet and rhythm section at the Village Gate in September 1973. She also won the 2018 Downbeat Critics Poll, putting the cello on the jazz map! Akua has won several awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for both composition and performance, and she was the 1998 recipient of the African American Classical Music Award given by Spelman College. The Star-Ledger once said that Akua is "amongst the treasures of contemporary jazz," and The New York Times commented that she is "one of New York's leading jazz musicians!" Akua is on the faculty at Bard Conservatory.

Akua's string arrangements and string quartet can be heard on the five-time Grammy Award-winning CD, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and the Grammy-nominated CD, A Rose Is Still A Rose by Aretha Franklin. Akua notated and conducted the music to the ballet Riverside by Judith Jamison (music by Kimati Dinizulu) for the 1995 season of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center.

Some of the artists she has performed with include Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Max Roach, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Lionel Hampton, Israel "Cachao" López, La Lupe, Héctor Lavoe, Wynton Marsalis, Itzhak Perlman, James Carter, Nnenna Freelon, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, The Temptations, The Stylistics, Paquito D'Rivera, Eubie Blake, Sammy Davis Jr., Busta Rhymes, Bob Hope and Wyclef Jean. Previously, she was the Assistant Principal Cellist in the Dance Theatre of Harlem Orchestra and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Orchestra.

Akua has performed at The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, Wolf Trap, Blue Note and Dizzy's Club Coca Cola as well as at major concert halls, jazz festivals and clubs throughout the United States, Europe, Spain, Scandinavia, Greece, Russia and the Caribbean. She has lectured and given educational concerts and workshops at The Town Hall, Carnegie Hall and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Akua was the founding cellist in the Uptown String Quartet and the Max Roach Double Quartet. She was previously a member of the Apollo Theater Orchestra and has worked on Broadway in the orchestra for Dreamgirls, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Black Broadway, Barnum, Jerry's Girls, Cats, La Cage aux Folles and Doonesbury.

Her television appearances include Saturday Night Live, New York Undercover, Gossip Girl, Late Night with David Letterman and MTV. She was a Rising Star in the 2013 DownBeat magazine's Critics Poll and came in first place in the 2015 DownBeat Readers Poll for cello.

Akua is a graduate of New York's famous High School of Performing Arts. She studied cello with Benar Heifetz at the Manhattan School of Music, and she had further jazz studies with Reggie Workman, Frank Foster, Claude "Fiddler" Williams and Jimmy Owens and composition studies with Rudolf Schramm.

Having been at the forefront of improvising string players since 1973, her 1994 CD, Quartette Indigo (Landmark Records), received 4 stars from DownBeat. She leads a string quartet that performs her original compositions and arrangements of jazz, spirituals, blues, salsa, tango, rags and bebop tunes in a unique setting.

In 2011, Akua released Moving On, which features her on cello with a rhythm section. Adding the Yamaha Silent Cello to her arsenal and leading a rhythm section put her cello out front. Akua endorses Yamaha Cellos and D'Addario strings.

Akua recorded her jazz release Akua's Dance with special guests Ron Carter, Russell Malone, Kenny Davis, Freddie Bryant and Victor Lewis in 2017. Akua's Dance was voted one of the Top 25 Albums of 2017 and received a four-star review in DownBeat.

Akua Dixon's Gear
Akua Dixon

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