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Constellations 2 (With Exploding Star Orchestra)

Bill Dixon

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Album Review

A live-in-the-studio recording documenting the material debuted at a 2007 Chicago gig by free jazz legend Bill Dixon and fellow trumpeter Rob Mazurek's current group the Exploding Star Orchestra, this set consists of Dixon's two-part "Entrances" and Mazurek's "Constellations for Innerlight Projections (For Bill Dixon)." Dixon's piece, which bookends Mazurek's, begins with a drum part somewhere between a martial stomp and a New Orleans second-line band, over which Dixon and Mazurek trade phrases, before drifting off into a contemplative murmur with solo parts that only occasionally rise above a quiet hum. Rarely has a 13-piece band played at a lower decibel count. Mazurek's 24-minute concerto opens with a poetic recitation by Damon Locks of the post-rock/jazz combo the Eternals then moves through several distinct sections ranging from washes of glitchy laptop noise (according to the liner notes, Mazurek's original intention for the piece was much more electronic in nature) to near-atonal unaccompanied solos by Dixon to full-band swing recalling Sun Ra's Arkestra to a simply lovely section beginning around the 14-minute point with flute, vibraphone and gongs playing a pretty, cyclical melody that sounds rather like one of Moondog's canons and, unexpectedly, a bit like Chicago's "Color My World." "Entrances" returns to close the set with little more than a pleasant reiteration of the original piece, taken at a slightly faster tempo in spots and featuring some longer and more expressive solos. Joining the regrettably small discography of studio recordings featuring Dixon (a founder of the Jazz Composers Alliance who left the New York free jazz scene to teach composition at Bennington College in Vermont for decades), Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra is a free-improv delight making plain the links between the original scene and the contemporary Chicago post-rock school. The album cover features an excellent painting by Dixon as well.

Biography

Born: 05 October 1925 in Nantucket, MA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the seminal free jazz figures, Bill Dixon made his mark as a player, organizer, and educator in a career that spanned more than 50 years. Dixon was a jaggedly lyrical trumpeter — his delivery was as vocalic as that of any free jazz trumpeter, except perhaps Lester Bowie. As an improviser, he was somewhat similar in temperament to Ornette Coleman, yet his compositional style differed greatly from the altoist. Dixon's work featured open space, wide intervals that did not imply...
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