Bellavista Blues: Dixon Swing By Santiago

A tiny corner of Bellavista felt the urban blues when the jazz band Dixon came to town on Wednesday, April 8. The eclectic six-piece group from San Felipe, Valparaíso played an intimate gig at the Sala SCD Bellavista to celebrate the release of their new single ‘Hermano.’

itemId=7230 Photo by Beth Costigan

Unfazed by the fact that there were no more than 30 people in the audience, the band sauntered coolly on to the stage and launched straight in to a jazz intro with unapologetic force. Lead vocalist and guitarist Rodrigo Ahumada, who oozed Santana cool in his trilby and shades, led the group through two very loud, very gregarious swing numbers before acknowledging the audience with a gravelly “Gracias”.

itemId=7185 Photo by Beth Costigan

The band then took it down a notch with a couple of smoky blues melodies featuring some impressively tremulous guitar refrains and more of those husky vocals. But before the atmosphere got too mellow the audience was jerked awake by a jazzed-up version of Ray Charles’s ‘Hit the Road Jack’ which had the whole room tapping and drumming.

The band’s name is a tribute to the late American blues artist Willie Dixon, and their sound incorporates jazz, swing, rock and even occasional country influences – as was demonstrated when Ahumada invited a friend up on stage to play the mouth organ for the easy and unhurried song ‘Smile.’

Their range was diverse and, despite the sunglasses, the show was refreshingly down to earth, with Ahumada chatting affably (and generally incomprehensibly) in to the mic between songs. The crowd was clearly made up mostly friends or loyal followers, with one couple even leaving early with a cheery wave and mutual shouts of “Nos vemos” (See you).

itemId=7188 Photo by Beth Costigan

The hour-long set was flawless, but even the spine-tingling tremor of Ahumada’s guitar strings or the lingering wilt of the beautiful Medelayn Zepeda’s sax couldn’t distract from the fact that we were far, far away from smoky Chicago and cramped in a cupboard of a venue in distinctly un-bluesy Santiago.

Dixon’s sound is made for sweaty bodies and hazy cigarette fog and the wee hours of the morning, but I was forced to duck down in my seat when the steward gave me the evils for noisily cracking open a diet coke halfway through the gig (no drinking inside the theatre).

Had the band chosen a more fitting venue then the turn-out wouldn’t have mattered, but as it was I felt as though we were a privileged few watching an important dress-rehearsal, rather than the event itself.

Never the less, Dixon clearly has bags of talent and their sound is so polished that I doubt it will be long before they are playing to the crowds that they deserve. Who knows – maybe the next stop will be Chicago...

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