Bill Dixon - Bill Dixon with the Exploding Star Orchestra (2008)


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had this discussion about jazz with a friend of mine once. He really couldn't deal the sound of a full-bore, large-scale ensemble (he doesn't like any jazz, honestly, but that's sort of irrelevant here). I can't remember exactly what CD was playing in my car, but it seemed to make him nervous. “How can you stand this?!," he said.

It seemed like the wrong question to me. In my synesthetic kind of way, the sounds of music seem to emanate from (and sometimes reflect) my surroundings: the swelling horn sections emulating the unavoidable tensions of daily life, the fast-rising trumpet line as joyous as freshly-discovered love, the developing collective improvisation that makes its way through the musical story as yet to be completed.

So when a piece of music suddenly becomes extremely chaotic, it seems very natural to me. Life itself provides those kind of moments and, while the shifts in mood can be jarring, we have no choice but to carry on.

Now, I'm sure my friend would just shrug his shoulders at my explanations and get just as annoyed as Bill Dixon and Rob Mazurek draw their concepts in the air over the expanding and contracting pulse of Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra. This orchestra does explode here and there, mostly without warning. Not too far into “Constellations For Innerlight Productions (For Bill Dixon)," a foreboding mood full of squirty horn tones, bells, short guitar figures, and much space ... flares up into a huge descending chord sequence for the entire group. Given a fair amount of time (over 24 minutes) for themes to repeat, morph, and further unfold—vignettes of swing, space, and chaos emerge and are then revisited. If that's not just like life, I don't know what is.

It must have been a thrill for Mazurek to team up with free jazz legend Bill Dixon. You can almost hear that sentiment as Mazurek's flugelhorn and Dixon's trumpet traverse the textures of “Entrances." With intensity swinging from full boil to pensive rubato, it'll keep you on the edge of your listening seat wondering what direction is next.

This is what's great about music. It's a big 'ole listening world out there and there's always more to be said and heard. That me and my friend don't agree on the particulars is of little consequence. We all make our own paths, I'm just glad that Bill Dixon is on mine.

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