Cellist-Composer Akua Dixon has been touring the world for the last 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 Sept. of 1973. Akua has won several awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, for composition and performance. She is the 1998 recipient of the African American Classical Music Award given by Spelman College. The Star Ledger has said that Akua is “amongst the treasures of contemporary jazz.” The NY Times commented that she is “one of New York’s leading jazz musicians!”
Her 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, with music by Kimati Dinizulu for the 1995 season of Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre at City Center.
Some of the artists she has performed with are Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Max Roach, Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Itzhak Perlman, Nnenna Freelon, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Temptations, Stylistics, Paquito D’Rivera, Eubie Blake, Sammy Davis Jr., Busta Rhymes, and Wyclef Jean. She was the assistant principal cellist in the Dance Theatre of Harlem Orchestra and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Orchestra.
Akua has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, Wolf Trap, the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club and at major concert halls, jazz festivals and clubs throughout the US, Europe, Spain, Scandinavia, Greece, Russia and the Caribbean. Akua has lectured and given educational concerts and workshops for 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 a member of the Apollo Theatre Orchestra and worked on Broadway in the orchestra for Dreamgirls, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Black Broadway, Barnum, Jerry’s Girls, Cats, La Cage Aux Faux and Doonesbury. Akua has appeared on Saturday Night Live, NY Undercover, Gossip Girls, Late Night with David Letterman and MTV. She was a Rising Star in the 2017 Downbeat Critics Poll and came in first place in the 2018 Downbeat 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. Further jazz studies with Reggie Workman, Frank Foster, Claude “Fiddler” Williams, Jimmy Owens and composition with Rudolph Schramm.
Akua Dixon has been in the forefront of improvising string players since 1973. Her 1994 CD, Quartette Indigo (Landmark), received 4 stars from Downbeat. She has been leading a string quartet “unlike any you’ve heard before.” They perform Akua’s original compositions and arrangements of Jazz, Spirituals, Blues, Salsa, Tango, Rags and Bebop in a unique setting. They are “an ensemble of great professionalism, skill and spirit” and can “swing with a gritty passion.”
In 2011, Akua released Moving On, which features her on cello with a rhythm section. She stepped out of the string environment into a jazz quartet. Adding the Yamaha Silent Cello to her arsenal and leading a rhythm section, puts the cello out front. Akua also endorses D’Addario strings to get the right sound.
Akua recorded her latest jazz release, Akua’s Dance, with special guests Ron Carter, Russell Malone, Kenny Davis, Freddie Bryant and Victor Lewis. Akua’s Dance was voted one of the top albums of 2017 and it received a four-star review in Downbeat. Akua’s latest CD, AKUA’S DANCE, received a four star review, was voted one of the top CD’s of 2017 and put the cello on the map as an instrument in jazz by winning in the Downbeat Critics’ Poll.
African-American Classical Music Award given by Spelman College (1998)
National Endowment for the Arts grant for Afrika! Afrika! (1981)
National Endowment for the Arts grant composer/performer (1979)