...Dixon has fashioned a work around which new formal paradigms will need to be constructed. I hope this fine addition to his discography, coupled with a renewed interest in his work, will allow more of Dixon's orchestral compositions to be performed by equally sympathetic interpreters.
--Marc Medwin, Signal to Noise
On Tuesday, June 24th, Arts for Art, Inc., in cooperation with AUM Fidelity, will release distinguished trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon's 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur (AUM046), the first recording of all original orchestral music released under his name since 1967's momentous Intents and Purposes (RCA Victor). This live concert recording is the second in a series of three CDs documenting specially commissioned world premiere performances from Vision Festival XII in 2007.
The series, which also includes the Roy Campbell Ensemble's Akhenaten Suite (AUM045), released on March 11th, and William Parker's orchestral recording, Double Sunrise Over Neptune (AUM047), coming August 12th, is supported by the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
Dixon (b. 1925) has been a driving force in the advancement of contemporary American Black Music for more than 45 years. This hour-long work (separated into 13 tracks on the recording) was commissioned as part of the Vision Festival's celebration of his importance as a groundbreaking organizer, educator, musician and inspiration for the festival and events of its kind.
Dixon composed this newly commissioned work over the course of several months, further developing it during three days of intensive rehearsal with the band, and as he directed its performance. He also handpicked each member of the all-star ensemble, which featured many musicians that have collaborated with him for more than 20 years.
The Bill Dixon Orchestra features Dixon (trumpet and electronics), Karen Borca (bassoon), Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet/flugelhorn), Will Connell (bass clarinet), Michel Cote (B-flat contrabass clarinet), Joseph Daley (tuba), Andrew Raffo Dewar (soprano saxophone), Dick Griffin (tenor trombone), John Hagen (tenor and baritone saxophones), Graham Haynes (cornet/flugelhorn), Stephen Haynes (cornet/flugelhorn), Jackson Krall (drums and percussion), Andrew Lafkas (double bass), Glynis Loman (cello), JD Parran (bass saxophone and bamboo flute), Warren Smith (vibes, tympani and drums) and Steve Swell (tenor trombone).
In his review of the concert, the New York Times' Nate Chinen wrote the piece confirmed the depth and vitality of Mr. Dixon's art," and called him an eminence now in his 80's." Other critics noted a delicate beauty" (Larry Blumenfeld, Village Voice), multiple levels of dialogue" (Marc Medwin, AllAboutJazz.com) and wave upon wave of instrumental tension and release" (Dan Ouellette, Billboard).
Dixon mainly stuck to conducting," added JazzTimes' David R. Adler, but he played trumpet during the second half-hour, sending extraordinary sounds into the hall: broad, rippling long tones; breath effects; echoing low notes that conjured great marine depths."
Dixon's pioneering work as a musician and organizer in the early 1960's helped lay the foundation for today's creative improvised music scene in New York and beyond. In 1964, he founded the all-star artists collective, the Jazz Composers' Guild, and produced and organized The October Revolution in Jazz, an unprecedented New York festival that helped put the so-called new thing" on the cultural map.
A mentor to countless musicians, through both his teaching and his role as a producer for Savoy Records, Dixon turned his focus to education in the late 1960's, serving for nearly 30 years on the faculty at the prestigious Bennington College, where he founded the historic Black Music Division in 1973.
With the notable exception of Cecil Taylor's Conquistador (Blue Note), Dixon has recorded almost exclusively as a leader since 1962, most frequently for the Soul Note label in the 1980's and 90's. Still a prolific composer at age 82, he is experiencing a renaissance of interest in his music thanks to the critical response to his recent performances and recordings.
In addition to 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur, his work as a composer and improvisor can be heard on the critically acclaimed February 2008 CD, Bill Dixon with the Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey), and in July he will record a new collection of original music with an all-star nonet for the Firehouse 12 label.
Dixon is featured in the July 2008 issue of The Wire.