Arti Dixson was born in Catskill, New York. Always wanting to play the drums, he played on oatmeal boxes well as his mother’s pots and pans. When he was 11 years old, he finally got to take drum lessons in school under the direction of Harold Fredericks. During his time at The University of Albany in New York, Arti studied with Jack DeJohnette who inspired him the most to pursue a musical career. After graduation he was called to play with “Sweet Box,” a band in England. While in England he studied voice at the London School for Singing under the private direction of Arnold Rose. After leaving that band he then pursued his career in New York City playing jingles and projects with various bands and song writers. He played with Janis Ian, Michael Bolton, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker, Bill Evans, Randy Klein, Marion Meadows, Bill Payne, Alex Foster, Pete Levin, Roger Ball, Brian Keane, Vicki Sue Robinson, Eartha Kitt, Brian Torff, Ali Ryerson, Lou Marini, Joe Beck, and many more. In 1988 Arti married Joanne which slowed him down just enough to honeymoon in Hawaii.
In 1993 Dave Mills commissioned Arti to play in a jazz trio with a string quartet at Yale University. The pianist for that project was Ahmad Jamal. Arti once again toured the world and recorded with Ahmad for the next year. During this time Jack DeJohnette recommended Arti to SONOR drums which followed with endorsements from Vic Firth drumsticks, E-Mu products, Evans drumheads and Sabian cymbals. On September 19th, 1994, Arti and Joanne had their first child, and in October of that year Arti left Ahmad’s band to be closer to his family
Arti formed his own band to perform jazz education concerts and workshops throughout the school systems in Connecticut for young audiences. He is a member of the Music Teachers National Association, The Percussion Arts Society, and The National Association of Music Merchants. He has recorded extensively and has also done shows like Phantom Of The Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and “Ella Off The Record,” as well as TV shows for HBO like Joe Louis sports special and The Pool Hall staring James Earl Jones.
In spite of Arti’s busy schedule, he still finds time to give back to his communities. For 27 years he has collected toys for children and distributed them to fourteen locations in twelve communities in Connecticut. Additionally, Arti has distributed food to twelve Connecticut food pantries for the past six years.
Arti is the inventor of the Arti Dixson Bass Drum Lift and The Spur Extender, both of which he has patented.
Arti continues to perform and record throughout the region, is the percussion instructor at Greens Farms Academy and accepts students for private drum set consultations.
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Check out the below video of Arti playing at the Branford Jazz Festival!
Check out the below interview with Arti!
Who are some of your biggest drum influences?
I spent time listening to Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams, Elvin Jomes, Harvey Mason and Horacio “el negro” Hernandez and many others like Roy Haynes, Max Roach, Joh Bonham, Terry Bozzio, ..the list goes on and on. I was never interested in sounding like anyone. Although studying with Jack DeJohnette was a game changer for me. Jack never told me to listen to him but instead to Tony, Max, Roy, Elvin, Philly Jo, Art Blake. I first learned of all these drummers from Jack. Philly Jo made rudiments swing and Roy didn’t always play the hi-hat on 2 & 4. Max played the melody. You could always hear the song in his playing. Elvin had that aggressive triplet concept and then Tony had a little of Roy and Max as well as Elvin in his playing. Jack always had this loose feeling that I kinda gravitated to naturally. When I saw Harvey Mason he had a preciseness about his ideas and it made think about how Jack once told me to clean up some ideas but keep some of the sloppy stuff because it maintained the human element. Then came Horacio “ el negro” Hernandez. I remember after experiencing his left foot clave I went home and stayed up literally all night trying to develop it. It was such a new and fresh approach that I had to study it. I would not be where I am without listening to these innovators and yet it is a never ending process to redefine what they have done and keep breaking new ground. I am grateful for my gift and to be able to share it with other musicians and the public is a privilege.
What inspired you to invent the Dixson Bass Drum Lift?
While tuning my bass drum off the floor, I discovered that the sound changed dramatically when I placed the drum on the floor and played it with a pedal compared to when it was being played off the ground. I was inspired to invent the Arti Dixson Bass Drum Lift as a result of waking up in the middle of the night with the thought to raise the drum off the floor. I placed a piece of wood under the drum and that maintained the sound that I was trying to achieve. That piece of wood became the Arti Dixson Bass Drum Lift after twelve prototypes.
What advice do you have for any upcoming drummers?
My advice to young drummers today is to try to find a drum instructor who is active playing and and who will inspire you to pursue a musical career through the art of reading rhythms as well as playing Rock, Funk, Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, Latin and Reggae. Being well rounded in these styles will afford you many opportunities both as a performer as well as continuing your education.
Practice, Practice, Practice and try copying the ideas of some drummers that you like. Knowing that emulating others is simply a transition to help you grow. You can use ideas of others in your own way to express how you feel. I’m not saying to become an imitator but to learn rhythms and solo ideas from other drummers as research for finding your own direction. You need to find musicians to play with and venues to play at to develop your art, whether it be in a studio, some public place or a basement. The bottom line is that it’s all about your abilities. Nobody just gets a break. You have to put yourself in a competitive environment and work at making connections and then if you have the talent to back it up the break will come.