If there's an opposite of aging that isn't growing ever youthful then Bill Dixon's got it. It comes here in music of infinite color, played by an ensemble entirely empathetic with his aims and intentions yet still capable of putting some personal stamp on it. As such it gets to grips, in no uncertain terms, with one of the perennial paradoxes of creative music.
It's clear, on something like "In Search Of A Sound," that instrumental color must have been one of Dixon's abiding concerns. He summons up static blocks of sound comprised of individual voices in the service of some grim, foreboding end that remains unrealized, and the seamless segue into "Contour One" offers dissolution of forces, a solitary cornet seemingly walking a ravaged landscape.
At times it feels like color is the only consolation available. For all of its foreboding air, "Darfur" is alive with it, with Warren Smith's tympani and Karen Borca's bassoon shading the lines. Again those blocks of sound are to the fore before Andrew Raffo Dewar's soprano sax provides a bridge into an agitated passage.
Any feeling of music in microcosm that section might engender is in marked contrast to "Sinopia." By some distance this is the longest movement here, but such is one of the many contrasts in this music that it's not the only occasion in which the music has room to breathe. One of the many remarkable aspects of the piece is, however, the spirals of high brass that seem only to dissolve into the ether over a bed of bass saxophone and lower brass. Dixon proves himself to be a virtuoso of color here and, for the realization of that end, the musicians themselves have to take equal credit.
Against the very achievements of "Sinopia," "Pentimento I" through "Pentimento IV" are mere sketches in duration terms. The fact is, however, that they're as good a way as any to close out a program of music designed not for comfort listening but for challenging and, perhaps, raging against mortality and the horrors and restrictions it imposes.
Personnel: Bill Dixon: trumpet, composer, conductor; Graham Haynes: cornet, flugelhorn; Stephen Haynescornet, flugelhorn; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn; Dick Griffin: tenor trombone; Steve Swell: tenor trombone; Joseph Daly: tuba; Karen Borca: bassoon; Will Connell: bass clarinet; Michel Cote: Bb contrabass clarinet; Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano sax; John Hagen: tenor sax, baritone sax; J.D.Parran: bass saxophone, bamboo flute; Glynis Loman: cello; Andrew Lafkas: bass; Jackson Krall: drums, percussion; Warren Smith: vibes, tympani, drums.