The great thing about the internet is that you know when a new CD is being released, and that it is immediately available for download. Such is the case with Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra. Rob Mazurek's adventurous band was a revelation last year, and it is now accompanied by Bill Dixon, the free jazz and avant-garde trumpet icon who has been most comfortable in small settings, in very spacious surroundings. Rob Mazurek's band is of course in stark contrast with this, because it brings extremely "busy" music, without a moment's rest, moving forward, moving forward, as it's name suggests. And that's how the album starts, hectic, frenetic, overpowering, but then halfway the first track the music slows down, with some droning horns and noise as a backdrop for Dixon's trumpet solo, with Mazurek's cornet echoing from a distance, full of intense drama and cosmic expansiveness. The orchestra keeps weaving sounds over sounds, mostly improvized reactions, with shades of color, interspersed notes by guitar, vibes, arco bass moving to silence and brought back to life in a one-note crescendo, which evolves into the spoken word of the second track (I am not a fan of spoken word, since it is often not more than pretentious non-poetry, and it is no different here, but luckily it doesn't last very long). The whole band moves into a chaotic frenzy, briefly leaving the full space to Dixon again, but then the orchestra starts with the composed piece, which is rhythmic, compelling, broad, expansive and cinematic, like on the first album. The third track, "Entrance/Two", brings a second version of the first one, equally impressive, yet not that different. In all, this is again a magnificent album, finding the right balance between composed orchestration and free improvization, impressive from beginning to end.
You can download or order from Thrill Jockey.
An alternative 25 minute version of the second track can be downloaded via iTunes.