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Bill Dixon: Tapestries for Small Orchestra

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This set’s title suggests small strands coming together to form a greater whole, which is indeed an important aspect of Bill Dixon’s conception. Yet tapestries are inert, and Dixon’s music is not. It might move slowly much of the time, but it most certainly moves; it’s a study in movement sans rhythm. Pieces like “Motorcycle ’66: Reflections and Ruminations” and “Adagio: Slow Mauve Scribblings” travel across the sound field like clouds: some thin and iridescent, others thick and dark, still others flecked with shards of ice on the verge of falling to earth. They form and dissolve, meet and coalesce in infinite variety, different on the surface but each comprising the same elemental natural forces.

Dixon leads a nonet made up of five trumpeters and/or cornet players (three of whom-Dixon, Taylor Ho Bynum and Graham Haynes-utilize electronics to some degree), bass/contrabass clarinetist Michel Côté, cellist Glynis Lomon, the always excellent bassist Ken Filiano (who also uses electronics), and percussionist/mallet player Warren Smith. Dixon takes full advantage of the sound-making possibilities inherent in the grouping, and his manner of combining tonal shapes parallels his visual art, several examples of which are shown in the packaging of this two-CD/DVD set.

The DVD is a nice touch, though the visuals of the band in the recording studio playing are necessarily claustrophobic and run counter to the music’s spaciousness. As a whole, however, it’s a respectful-one might even say loving-presentation of Dixon’s art.

Originally Published