Gabe Dixon Band: the next DMB?

So perhaps they don’t have the most original name. Their name is along the same lines as the Dave Matthews Band or Steve Miller Band. What they lack in name creativity, however, they surely make up for in musical skill and style. The group comprised of four young guys brings together funk, jazz and a classic rock mentality. The Gabe Dixon Band, who played at Williams last spring as Guster’s touring opening act, could be categorized in the same realm as Dispatch, Ben Folds Five or John Mayer.

The Gabe Dixon Band has been called “real music by real people” by Billboard. All of the group members add their vocal talents, but lead singer Gabe Dixon has a sexy rusty voice that reminds me of a Jack Johnson or a John Mayer who has lived through more.

All four young bucks found their way to the Music School at the University of Miami in 1999, when they founded the group. Each member comes from a surprisingly different locale and this fact is probably one of the reasons the band is able to have such an eclectic sound.

The classically trained lead singer, Gabe Dixon, was born in Nashville and grew up listening to mostly blues and country. Of his background, he says, “When I discovered Elton John, I wanted to be him – to the point where I got completely obsessed and started playing the piano non-stop.”

Dixon was also able to practice his performing skills with three extremely different artists: teen country band Six Shooter, the blues-rock band Backwaters and living legend Paul McCartney. In fact, after hearing Dixon play, McCartney asked him to play the piano for his Driving Rain album and the keyboards in front of the nation for the “Concert for New York” to raise funds for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

As for the rest of the band, Jano Rix, the drummer, was raised in New York City where he was taught by his father, an accomplished musician himself, at an early age. Rix is also a skilled pianist who has studied both classical and jazz piano. Bassist Winston Harrison was born in Louisville, Ky. Growing up in this country’s homeland for bluegrass and country, Harrison has been inspired by many of those genres’ artists. Chandler Webber grew up in South Florida and adds his talents on saxophone to the group. Webber has also been a feature artist with such famous groups as The Temptations, The O’Jays, Rosemary Clooney and the Cincinnati Pops.

On a Rolling Ball, The Gabe Dixon Band’s debut CD, has the college band vibe going on. They sound like a collaboration of talented people from all over. Although the band and their debut CD have a strong jazz influence, this group appeals to a wide range of people – the influence of many different famous pop artists can also be heard. The first track of the CD in particular, “More Than It Would Seem,” reminded me of a young Stevie Wonder. It has a soulful approach to pop. Other tracks are reminiscent of Elton John mixed with Billy Joel, while others are suggestive of The Police.

“Corner Café,” the second track, is one of my favorites on the album. It hints at the sophistication of the group. The melodic piano and intense lyrics contribute to its strength. The song is about a favorite restaurant on a rainy day, and through the music the listener can hear the rain. This is one of those songs that makes me envision myself walking into a café and hearing, curling up in a chair in the corner and watching people in the inclement weather.

Another one of the best tracks is “Sitting at The Station.” Like “Corner Café,” it also has an intense musical basis. Through percussion and bass, the group creates the sound of a train speeding up and then slowing down at the station.

These two tracks exemplify the music on the album. The listener is transported into another place. One of the tracks I didn’t completely dig, “Everything’s OK” was a descent song but a bit too reminiscent of Ben Folds Five. Emulating other groups is good – in moderation. The music is forceful with an awesome beat, but the lyrics lack substance in this piece. I was forced to ask myself: Is Gabe Dixon singing or is Ben Folds?Â

The Gabe Dixon Band’s relaxed mentality and music appeals to a demographic of young people who want to listen to some great music while hanging out with friends. They sound like one of those groups that add to the soundtrack of your life. With a sound similar to that of college culture phenomenon Dave Matthews, the Gabe Dixon Band could easily turn out to be a popular staple of student playlists.

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