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April 2008

Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra
Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra
Thrill Jockey

Trumpeter Bill Dixon has recorded infrequently since his efforts in the 1960s to triumph free-jazz, or the “new thing,” in New York through performances and the Jazz Composers Guild. (His playing on Cecil Taylor’s Conquistador is a most enduring document.) A teacher at Bennington College until 1996, he met Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek two years ago, after which both began discussing collaboration. Exploding Star Orchestra, the 13-piece group of Chicago players assembled by Mazurek, welcomes Dixon into their fold to play two of his pieces, which bookend a lengthier one by Mazurek.

“Entrances/One” revels in waves of textures, with instruments rising and falling over a tempo helmed by two basses, drums and tympani. Conversely, “Entrances/Two,” which ends the album, starts in a similar manner and eventually gives way to wide open space where sounds skillfully rise and fall (don’t turn the volume knob too high in the final 90 seconds). Mazurek’s “Constellations for Innerlight Projections” begins with a spoken text that avoids all the trappings of the genre and serves more as a metaphor for the direction of the music. In 24 minutes, that course includes another sonic tidal wave, Dixon solos marked by raspy smears and guttural growls (which get a boost from echo effects), and voicings that ensure the music never becomes muddy. A looser set of music than ESO’s debut, this meeting of the generations still has plenty of energy and passion to keep it moving.

Originally published in April 2008
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