Unlike bassist Henry Grimes, Bill Dixon was never lost. Maybe his absence over the last 15 years was because he didn't want to be found. After the trumpeter, born in 1925, pioneered the New Thing jazz of the 1960s, including the October Revolution festival and the Jazz Composer's Guild, he dropped from the spotlights to teach for 30 years at Bennington College. While his recorded output has been spotty, adventurous listeners certainly treasure Vade Mecum I
(1994) and II
(1996) and Papyrus Vol. 1
(1999), all on Italy's Soul Note Records.
While his horn wasn't heard, his influence certainly gave birth to the careers of Axel Dorner, Taylor Ho Bynum, Peter Evans, and Rob Mazurek. And it's Mazurek who gets the credit for drawing Dixon back out for Bill Dixon With The Exploding Star Orchestra.
From the Exploding Star's 13 pieces, Dixon hatches his own 17-musician group for a live set at the Arts for Art series during the 2007 Vision Festival in New York. Like Monk and Town Hall or Charles Mingus' orchestral work, Dixon was given talent but little time for rehearsal and changes. This makes for a part composed, part improvised series of passages. There's the feeling that Dixon is guiding this who's who of creative players, but at other times they are free to fill in as their own muse dictates. The music is, nonetheless, up to Dixon's standards. Players create moods for his vast open landscape of a vision, crafting solos in between caverns of sound.
17 Musicians In Search Of A Sound has the feel of a coarse-sewn rug, made from very fine materials. Given time and perhaps a long tourlike, say, Peter Brötzmann's Tentets getthis music might become tighter and more easily consumable. But, then again, it wouldn't be Bill Dixon music.
Track Listing: Prelude; Intrados; In Search of a Sound; Contour One; Contour Two; Scattering of the Following; Darfur; Contour Three; Sinopia; Pentimento I; Pentimento II; Pentimento III; Pentimento IV.
Personnel: Bill Dixon: trumpet, composer, conductor; Graham Haynes: cornet, flugelhorn; Stephen Haynes: cornet, flugelhorn; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Dick Griffin: trombone; Steve Swell: trombone; Joseph Daley: tuba; Karen Borca: bassoon; Will Connell: bass clarinet; Michael Cote: Bb contrabass clarinet; Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone; John Hagen: tenor, baritone saxophones; JD Parran: bass saxophone, bamboo flute; Andrew Lafkas: bass; Glynis Loman: cello; Jackson Krall: drums, percussion; Warren Smith: vibraphone, tympani, drums.