Legendary free-jazz trumpeter/educator and stylist Bill Dixon doesn’t record much, but thankfully, he connected with cornetist/composer Rob Mazurek and founder of the Exploding Star Orchestra. As the storyline goes, Mazurek proposed a collaboration that ultimately led to this effort, which offers an opportunity to hear Dixon performing with a large ensemble: his discography is primarily small-group based.
Featuring Chicago’s best and brightest progressive-jazz musicians, Mazurek’s band is a combustible entity at that. With two compositions by Dixon and one by Mazurek, the music iterated here is constructed upon overlapping hues, firmed up by two percussionists and vibist Jason Adasiewicz’s oscillating lines. The band chugs along with the fury of a proverbial freight train amid roaring horns and imploding choruses. Along with an abundance of peaks, valleys and avant-garde like ethereal moments, Dixon’s raspy and golden-toned phrasing offer great depth among other persuasive attributes. It’s a counterbalancing act at times, where Damon Locke’s cosmic spoken word on Mazurek’s piece "Constellations for Innerlight Projections (for Bill Dixon)," consists of spatial parameters and zestful movements. Here, they perhaps mimic the creation of a black hole star amid floating motifs and scathing meltdowns for a piece originally set upon a video score with live electronics/conduction dictating the artists’ responses. But Locke’s narrative generates the framework for this particular rendering of Mazurek’s original scope of ideas and mode of attack.
On his composition "Entrances/Two," Dixon solos above a set of frothy ostinatos, jagged bursts and garrulously executed horns and woodwinds. Sure enough, Dixon enables the mind’s eye to wander as he uses his trumpet as a vocal tool. They surge matters into the ozone, while finalizing the piece on a humble note. And it all equates to thrills a nanosecond as Dixon’s magic hand yields innumerable dividends throughout this wondrously compelling program.