Bill Dixon: The Benefits of the Struggle

AAJ Staff By

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Because it is virtually impossible for people like myself to manage to keep a group together I have to work especially hard to maintain both the ideas that I want to express more fully and directly, by intense practice on the instrument [I continue to put in about five or six hours a day irrespective of whatever else I am doing], knowing at the same time that that is not enough for the recognition, solidification and presentation of those ideas through performance via the public arena.

For a while I was driving from my house in North Bennington, down to Hudson, NY to do some "tightening up work, concerning the duo format, with the young musician-composer Tony Widoff. It was about a four hour drive, round trip, but was well worth it since it could concern itself with the music on a pure basis: how was what it was thought "worthy to be considered for performance to be dealt with and done to the aesthetic satisfaction of the two of us.

I am trying to, as I've said at other times, in my work on the instrument to pierce the outer "shell of creative music so that the "inner shell will be more "kind , in terms of an extension of the vocabulary, to that kind of "probing around. Some may just hear it as noise and I don't have the time, inclination and am also not afforded any kind of forum to debate them [at this point], but I find it, when all of the things that need to be working [with the help of the ever present Sages, as the late and much missed pianist-composer John Benson Brooks, was wont to say on many an occasion], the most exciting time for me musically.

Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, visual artist Bill Dixon was the organizer and producer of the now legendary October Revolution in Jazz, a concert series devoted to the then "new music in 1964 - the same year he was the prime architect of the ever-significant Jazz Composers' Guild, a group whose place in the history of this music is a philosophical model and progenitor for groups that have followed such as Chicago's Advancement for the Association of Creative Musicians (AACM) and St. Louis' Black Artists Group (BAG). He joined the faculty at Bennington College in 1968, where he was a professor for nearly 30 years before retiring. Dixon has recorded some hard-to-find jazz classics including Intents and Purposes (1966) and has recorded for Soul Note since 1980, releasing nearly a dozen gems for the label such as the two-volume Vade Mecum and Papyrus series.


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