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August 2008

Bill Dixon
17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur
AUM Fidelity

Since February, Bill Dixon has released two new albums, Bill Dixon With Exploding Star Orchestra and his latest, 17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur. This would be an accomplishment for any musician, but it’s especially impressive coming from this octogenarian trumpeter, whose career dates back to the early days of free-jazz. A search for “Bill Dixon” on Amazon yields a mere 35 hits, and only about half of those are germane. No one could accuse Dixon of being prolific, which is why it’s so clear that he’s got something to say in 2008, and apparently needs a lot of musicians to say it.

Like Exploding Star Orchestra, 17 Musicians is a dense, sprawling effort. The album was recorded last year at the Vision Festival in New York and it crackles with the kind of energy that you can only find in a live setting. There are too many musicians to mention by name, but that hardly matters: Everyone seems committed to saying their piece inasmuch as the music simmers without boiling over. This tension between eagerness and restraint gives the improvisations a pleasant-albeit-edgy quality. The sound is perhaps best described as drone—some of this music could be mistaken for the heavy-metal duo SunnO)))—and, given the never-ending problems in Darfur, that might be the most appropriate sound of all.

Originally published in August 2008
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