The Low End Theory

MOTORCYCLE ’66 [alt. take]
Bill Dixon
tapestries for small orchestra DVD
Firehouse 12 : 2009

BD, orchestration; Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet, flugelhorn; Graham Haynes, cornet, flugelhorn; Stephen Haynes, trumpet, cornet; Rob Mazurek, cornet; Glynis Lomon, cello; Michel Côté, contrabass clarinet; Ken Filiano, bass; Warren Smith, vibraphone, marimba.

Maybe we’re reading the wrong periodicals or Twitter feeds or wherever people get their information these days, but it looks to us as though Bill Dixon slapped down easily one of the most generous slabs of music of the year a couple of weeks ago, to very little notice — even in some of the old familiar places. This is perhaps nothing new for Dixon, who somehow occupies a sidelong place in the official jazz narrative despite authoring one of the crucial moments of the new New Thing (to name only one such career landmark).

But, y’know, fine. Though a bit late in getting to this ourselves, we are nevertheless extremely chuffed to be able to present an exclusive alternate take of “Motorcycle ’66,” one of the major statements from this thoroughly stunning 2-CD set. We have no idea if the title is a Dylan reference, but are quite clear about its emotional impact.

Taken from a performance that’s included on the bonus DVD (let’s hear it for hard goods!), it carries a solemn mood lightly across its fourteen minutes. While not as concentratedly spare and ruminative as the master take, this version is a glorious reminder of Dixon’s talents as orchestrator and sound explorer.

Loving the low end, Dixon presents gorgeous, slow-moving tableaus, highlighting the range of sounds and textures that the trumpets and cornets can produce. Charged yet sedate, unhurried in the extreme yet never ponderous, it’s mature music that is all too aware of the passing of time; the passing of time is in part what this music is about.

Thanks to some wonderful notes by musicians Taylor Ho Bynum and Stephen Haynes, and to the homey documentary that is included with the CD version, the sessions are very well documented. S. Haynes also blogged during the recording sessions in summer 2008; his entries are well worth your time. Further documentation, if you’re looking for more:

–a comprehensive, sensitive, and thoroughly enjoyable feature on Dixon by Clifford Allen
–the best, most cogent review of tapestries we’ve yet seen
–why not become a fan?

While you can download this album at Amazon, and also at eMusic, and elsewhere, you are going to want to order it directly from Firehouse 12 — for the DVD; for the price (cheaper than Amazon’s CD!); for the direct benefit to F12. Makes a wonderful stocking-stuffer!

Before we go, here’s a trailer of the doc, to whet your appetite for more:

Our thanks to Scott at Improvised Communications and the Firehouse 12 crew for facilitating this post.

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