When Billy Joel pushes in as you’re playing keyboards and you end up facing Paul McCartney as the band plays Let It Be, you might be living Gabe Dixon’s life.

The piano player at the heart of the Gabe Dixon Band has played with Kenny Loggins, McCartney (this appearance was at the Concert for New York following 9/11) and O.A.R. Gabe Dixon may one day be as in demand from other musicians as fellow University of Miami alum Bruce Hornsby, but don’t dismiss the Gabe Dixon Band as a side project.

This band, after all, was one that legendary Hendrix and Zeppelin engineer and producer Eddie Kramer produced less than four years after they were playing coffeehouses. Dixon still sounds more than a little inspired when Kramer’s name is raised.

A fusion of everything from ska-flavored reggae to pure piano pop, GDB is riding a crest of popularity from Internet play of 2005’s Live at World Cafe EP and 2008’s self-titled album that nearly broke on to Billboard’s fabled charts.

But don’t call them the rebirth of Ben Folds Five. “When people only known Elton, Billy or Folds,” drummer Jano Rix told me, “they hang a label on you that might not be the right one.” And while all three piano men Rix mentioned had world class jazz drummers, there is no reason his name can’t be mentioned with Darren Jesse or Nigel Olsson.

The rest of the world seems to be noticing too. 2009 saw the band appear on a Starbucks sampler, exposing to them an entire world of listeners who might not frequent the small clubs and college circuit Gabe Dixon Band plays now. Their most recent album included collaborations with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, and Dixon says he hopes to keep collaborating.

Are you listening, Sara Bareilles? It was you he name checked.