If Bill Dixon is today, in 2023, less widely remembered than other New Thing warriors such as Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler, it is partly because he had little desire for celebrity, devoting much of his energy to organizing on behalf of his fellow musicians and composers, and teaching.
In 1964, midway through making the 1962-1967 recordings collected on this album, Dixon organized the historic October Revolution in Jazz at the Cellar Café in Manhattan, which gave an enhanced profile to New Thing musicians, most of them unknown outside practitioner circles and which directly resulted in several of them recording for ESP-Disk.
Dixon next co-founded the Jazz Composers Guild, a short-lived co-operative akin to Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. When the Guild folded, Sun Ra, who was not in the vanguard of the movement for women's rights, told his fellow members that its demise was in part because Dixon had allowed Carla Bley to join, reminding them of the seamen's legend which says that having a woman aboard will sink a ship. Dixon went on to form a long-lasting creative partnership with the dancer and choreographer Judith Dunn. In 1966, Bley cofounded the Jazz Composers Orchestra Association.
With Archie Shepp, 7-Tette & Orchestra Revisited is compiled from three albums: Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet (Savoy, 1962), Bill Dixon 7-Tette/Archie Shepp And The New York Contemporary 5 (Savoy, 1964) and Intents And Purposes (RCA Victor, 1967).
Having the tracks together, in chronological order, on one CD, allows the listener effortlesslyand with growing delight and wonderto trace Dixon's stylistic development, from the raw quartet tracks with Shepp, through to the exquisitely nuanced, crepuscular orchestral arrangements of the tentette on Intents And Purposes, where Dixon finessed the experiments with timbre and tone-colour which he had begun on the 7-Tette recording. Intents And Purposes' aptly named "Metamorphosis 1962-1966" (running time 13:32), featuring bass clarinetist Byard Lancaster, alto saxophonist Robin Kenyatta and twin bassists Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman, is the luxuriant highpoint of a very fine album. (See the YouTube below).
With Intents And Purposes, Dixon moved beyond "jazz" into a new area. If forced to do so, one might label this area "African American classical music." Whatever it is called, it was something with which the twentieth-century music business was seemingly unable to engage. The album was cold-shouldered (even by its issuing label) in the same way as was the "art house" work of composers such as Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson and Florence Price. But we can still marvel at it in 2023, especially in this edition, which benefits from ezz-thetics' impeccable sound-restoration.
Trio; Quartet; Winter Song 1964; The 12th December; Metamorphosis 1962-1966; Nightfall Pieces I; Voices; Nightfall Pieces II.
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