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.

Discussion8 Comments Category Bill Dixon Tags , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to The Low End Theory

  1. wow, a beauty! thanks for the tip

  2. I’m new to Dixon – is this album a good place to start? Or are there better entry points?

    Nice track. It’s definitely got me intrigued.

  3. I am in Philadelphia, for the first time in 30 years, for a weekend with Bill Dixon, Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra at Ars Nova Workshop. What a pleasant surprise to retire to my hotel room after a lovely dinner to find your post on the new work with Bill. Thorough and thoughtful- no surprise given the source – and greatly appreciated. More work is in store (but still under wraps) and it looks as if the F12 ensemble will do a bit of touring in support of the release, beginning with Victoriaville 2010. Thanks for helping to spread the word!

  4. I’m partial to INTENTS AND PURPOSES, though you can dip in anywhere and find great stuff. Also good: Dixon’s 1980s work on Black Saint/Soul Note, which you can find at eMusic and the like.

  5. Stephen! Thanks so much for checking in and for the kind comment. Happy to hear that more is on the way — keep it coming!

  6. I was at the show – thanks for coming to Philly. Wonderful stuff.

  7. Finally had a chance to listen to this record. Stunning in its execution. It makes a wonderful soundtrack for the heavy snowfall here in Chicago.

    Looking forward to seeing the F12 ensemble in concert. Hope you all come to the Midwest.

    Stephen, thanks for the thoughtful blog posts on the recording process. Great peak inside the machine.

  8. Always great to hear commentary from listeners. One wishes for more of that at times!

    As far as touring, the only confirmed activity for this nonette with Bill Dixon is, at this point, Victoriaville in late May of this year.

    We’d love to do some concerts here or in Europe, but conditions must be correct. Anyone out there with a healthy connection or the inclination to present the music should be in touch with us.

    Meanwhile,tell all your friends to buy the recording and DVD. Spreading the word (not thru file sharing) may be the single best way for all of you who value this music and the artist who creates it (notice present tense) in continuing the work.

    BTW,we plan to record at Victoriaville!

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