Taps to Jazz
Bill Dixon

2007 Chicago Jazz Festival, Sunday: The venerable
(to some) Bill Dixon guested with Rob Mazurek's
Exploding Star Orchestra

by Mark LadensonBorn: October 5, 1925, Bill Dixon has been a driving force in the advancement of contemporary American Black Music for more than 45 years. His 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, in his 80's, his work as a composer and improvisor can also be heard on the critically acclaimed February 2008 CD, Bill Dixon with the Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey), and in July 2008 he recorded a new collection of original music with an all-star nonet for the Firehouse 12 label.
17 Musicians in Search of a Sound is pure Dixon, massive in scale and rigorous in execution...this is not a mere concert souvenir, but a significant statement. Dixon’s music is about the process of its becoming; while its expansions into dense, eventful fanfares and contractions into hushed, detailed dialogues may be scripted, the sound of the music is not...as group improvisations go, this one is remarkable for its poise and balance....it’s about great players subsuming their identities into an ensemble.
--Bill Meyer, DownBeat

.Dixon has fashioned a work around which new formal paradigms will need to be constructed. Dixon’s music explodes category: it is neither free nor through-composed, though elements of both approaches are often discernible. 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

...Dixon opens up space and the musicians play it.
--Philip Clark, The Wire

...the process of searching for a sound, both as an individual musician, or as a composer, is an ongoing process that leads to the creation of a certain type of music palpably, viscerally distinguishable from music that does not. Bill Dixon is nothing short of a master when it comes to this concept of sound, and at his age and stature is unique in his ability to offer us an incredibly refined vision of this different approach to sound and music.
--Dan Melnick, Soundslope

The 13-part suite creates an ebb-and-flow effect, with the reeds and horns surging by turns amid throbbing drum rolls and calmly snaking solo lines. The work's centerpiece, the 23-minute “Sinopia,” is where Dixon best makes his presence felt as something other than conductor. It leaves room for some intimate dialogues between instrumentalists, but there's no missing the leader's entrance. With puckered blurts, upper-register trills, and rubbery bleats -- most of them enhanced with ghostly delay -- he stalks across the landscape, his utterances punctuating the arrangement like shadow puppets dancing across an illuminated screen. And even when the piece is more geared toward an ensemble sound -- which, to be fair, is most of the time -- Dixon shines brightly with his mastery of texture.
--Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader

Info gleaned from: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/