Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wild Bill

have Bill Dixon on the brain, yes siree. i need to share with you a piece from "Vade Mecum," a Soul Note disc recorded in August of '93. having checked this one out a few years back and then revisited over the past few days, i'm gonna just say that it's one of the strongest documents of free improv that i've ever had the pleasure to hear.

to my ears, this is a near-perfect convergence of a) four veteran players with absolutely huge ears and inimitable technique (Dixon, with William Parker and Barry Guy both on bass and Tony Oxley on drums) and b) a daringly foregrounded production strategy. simply put, the record is bathed in reverb. normally this would be a turn-off for me, but for some reason, the effect serves here to catapult this one into sublime territory.

in Dixon and Oxley, you're obviously dealing with some supersubtle players. Dixon's head-spinning blurbly lip effects and smeary zips and ripping sounds on trumpet (spotlighted at the beginning and end of mp3 below) are just so killer and with all the reverb, they come to sound hugely deep and full and cavernous and enveloping. Dixon's sound even distorts and blurs at the edges when he gets especially aggressive [for some amazing BD thoughts on why distortion is a good thing--and for a million other insights, check this seriously thorough 2002 interview from the excellent and underappreciated One Final Note.]

the recording allows you to hear Oxley as never before too; his clicks and plops and flutters are impeccably captured. not to mention the bassists, beautifully stereo-separated, one in each ear. this record is an awsome antidote to the improv-gig-as-record record. i love how "Vade Mecum" is so clearly a project rather than a chance encounter masquerading as such, as so many free-improv discs are; it brims with intent and refinement.

it's truly a sonic playground, this one. i imagine the reverb will turn some folks off, but i encourage you to embrace it, since it's obviously a balls-out aesthetic choice on Dixon's part. i must admit that his heavy use of delay in recent years can be a little trying to these ears, but this reverb is just like a heavenly bath for the trumpet. and i gotta say that however awesome Parker and Oxley sound with Cecil, they sound better with Dixon. this is impeccably deep-listening participatory music that shatters free-jazz cliches at every turn. it's alive and kinetic but it makes you do a lot of work as a listener. no cheap stuff--spacious, warm, searching, lush, surprising, virtuosic. just everything you want it to be really, given the caliber of these players.

so here's Anamorphosis to check out.

more on Bill:

the man's own site.

that fascinating Dixon Society page i linked to in the last post.

sonically defunct but textually solid Destination Out post from a while back.

awesome and heartfelt Taylor Ho Bynum appreciation.

an appreciation of Dixon's solo gargantua box "Odyssey" by none other than Lance Hahn of the killer San Fran intellectual pop-punk group J Church. you'll find the piece via here.

and finally the infamous Bagatellen brouhaha--featuring dollops of cantankerous, gloves-off punditry--re: "is Dixon bullshit?" seems ludicrous to me, but a lot of people don't buy into what he's doing. to me he's an iconoclast who resoundingly explodes the paradigm of ecstatic free jazz. re: that debate, i'll just say this: name another free-jazz trumpeter who's readily identifiable in ten seconds. Dixon is as unmistakable as Albert Ayler or Eric Dolphy, and in my experience that kind of immediate ID stamp is very rare in free brass.

i expect more awesomeness from the Dixon/Oxley duos (two volumes of "Papyrus"), which i'm just now digging into.

also, dig the news that this year's Vision Festival (coming up in June) is all about our man Dixon.


just wanted to say right quick that you should check out Outer Space Gamelan, a real cool blog covering the noise underground. i frankly like reading this dude's constanly updated assessments of all these ultra-limited CD-Rs and tapes more than i like a lot of music currently being produced under the noise aegis.

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