Recorded June 20, 2007 at Vision Festival XII, New York, NY
Mixed & mastered January 9 & 10, 2008 at Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT.
As Bill Dixon's recordings are few and far between, there must also be a profound theme that inspires his music. In this instance, the horrific and under-publicized military-driven genocide in Darfur brought him to make music on the stage of the Vision Festival XII in New York City with a 17-piece band to reflect the anguish and turmoil of the strife-stricken area in the West Sudan region of Africa. But this is not an angry or disgusted expressionistic music, but one that reflects the distant outcries of the people in Darfur who need help from the world community. Dixon, on lead trumpet and as conductor, has formed a band of such mighty improvisers as Taylor Ho Bynum, veteran multiphonic trombonists Dick Griffin and Steve Swell, Karen Borca, J.D. Parran, Jackson Krall, and Warren Smith with a handful of lesser-known creative musicians. The trumpet section with Bynum, Graham Haynes, and Stephen Haynes is most impressive, as are the low-end woodwinds like bass saxophonist Parran, bass clarinetists Will Connell and Michel Cote, bassoonist Borca, and tenor and baritone saxophonist John Hagen. Dixon uses many long tones, swells, and fades throughout the program. The 23-and-a-half-minute "Sinopia" (interesting title) has the instrumentalists assimilating vocal sounds, at times guttural or whimsical, then mysterious, chortling, or inquisitive, held in check within a mezzo forte or lower range. The four-part "Pentimiento" is as brief as "Sinopia" is longwinded, using longer, quicker, and louder tonalites. "In Search of a Sound" may reflect the lack of information coming from Darfur, manifested in more deliberate and dramatic elongated phrases, with short splatters from various bandmembers, and Dixon discoursing with the bass clarinet. "Darfur" is ominous, as you might expect, with timpani signifying a march or maybe an alert signal prior to pained objections turned into a multiplied and articulated instrumental chorale. Borca's bassoon and Smith's vibes dance with Joe Daly's tuba in a stripped-down smaller ensemble during the interplay of "Scattering of the Following." Dixon solos during "Contour Three" with the cello of Glynis Loman, and then the band collectively asks why. The leader also contributed reproductions of the colorful abstract acrylic paintings that adorn the CD booklet. This is a project of austere emotion, clever counterpoint, and searing reality in dedication to a condition in the so-called civilized world that should never, ever be. If you are someone who appreciates the pure improvised music of the singularly original Dixon, this recording needs to be added to your collection.
All Music Guide