Victoria, Hermann’s lose exceptional jazz drummer

Josh Dixon celebration set for Saturday

Josh Dixon at Chicago Blues.

Josh Dixon at Chicago Blues.

Jennifer Dixon was swept away when she first met her future husband, Victoria drummer Josh Dixon, in a New York City coffee house 13 years ago. Tall, dark, with arresting green eyes, Josh looked like Dave Matthews, Jennifer thought. As they talked she found him to be kind, optimistic, and caring, qualities he exemplified until the day he died last month at 41. The two had been married since 2006.

Josh Dixon was well known to Victoria jazz fans as drummer, since 2004, in Hermann’s Jazz Club’s house band, the Tom Vickery Trio. Bassist and best friend since they were in high school Sean Drabitt said Dixon had an uncanny ability to mimic – yet make them his own – jazz ride cymbal patterns of famed drummers such as Philly Joe Jones and post-bop era Elvin Jones.

“He listened to what was going on and tried to make everything sound even better,” Drabbit said.

Dixon also played with Karel Roessingh as part of the latter’s trio, a staple at Pagliacci’s restaurant on Broad Street.

“He always thought about each tune and how he could best play a part that would be interesting and unexpected,” Roessingh said, adding that Dixon was not a flashy drummer. “He often brought just a few drums, not the whole kit.”

Drumming was as natural to Dixon as talking, Drabbit said. Dixon had learned the drums from his father George, also a talented beatsmith. Drabbit met Dixon at a University of Victoria jazz camp when they were both 16. While Drabbit went to Mt. Doug High, had a mullet, and “listened to terrible music,” Dixon attended Oak Bay High, “dressed sharp, and drove a nice MG. Women were always chasing him.”

The two became good friends and remained so even after Dixon moved in 1991 to New York and then to New Orleans to play in some of the country’s best venues. Drabbit followed Dixon to New York and recalled the many gigs they played together. One involved a club owner cum small time gangster who underpaid the band prompting them to skip out the back door leaving their bar bill unpaid. “He (the owner) came running after us waving his gun.”

Dixon was 27 when he met Jennifer, who was 19 and studying art in New York City. He and two of his band mates, including Noah Becker, lived under the radar in an artist’s studio with a bathroom down the hall and no shower.

They had been introduced by mutual friends and when she asked him what he was about, he answered “I need a lot of attention.” She said she did too. “We bonded on that. We were both able to give the devotion, attention, and love each other needed, the stuff that everyone wants but that you don’t get sometimes.”

His only downside for her in the beginning was his encompassing love of all sports, an interest she didn’t share, but learned to accept. A regular at Cedar Hill Golf Course, Dixon sometimes played at Victoria Golf Club in exchange for a round of golf. And although Dixon had lost about 14 kg in the past year after taking up running, he died in his sleep from an inherited congenital heart condition. His father had the same condition and died at 51.

In addition to Jennifer, Dixon leaves behind his mother, Wendy Dixon, and sister and brother-in-law Chelsa and Matt England, niece Frances and nephew Eli.

A celebration of life will be held Saturday, March 3, from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Hermann’s Jazz Club, 753 View St.  The evening will include jazz and open mic tributes. For more information go the Friends of Joshua Lee Dixon on Facebook.