Monday, May 19, 2008

Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra (Thrill Jockey, 2008)

Trumpeter and cornetist Rob Mazurek is the nominal leader of the Exploding Star Orchestra, a Sun Ra Arkestra like ensemble that made its debut last year with the interesting album We Are All From Somewhere Else. Trumpeter and educator Bill Dixon had been a longtime influence on Mazurek, and who invited Dixon to make an album with his large ensemble as featured soloist. Dixon and the Orchestra have stretches where the musical sound is reminiscent of the early fusion of Miles Davis, with the shimmering vibes and pungent and mysterious trumpet echoing the music of classic albums like In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew, then giving way to stretches which sound like Sun Ra at his most cosmically cacophonous. The space poetry of the second track is certainly a Ra trip, but the abstract sequences of fractured poetic trumpet is pure Dixon. Full, beefy improvisation of a intergalactic big band with splashes of vibraphone providing Jackson Pollock like swathes of color compete with sections of spacey interlude are the order of the day here. This is challenging music to be sure, but it is also quite rewarding. Just as there are visionary scientists exploring the edge of the cosmos, Dixon, Mazurek and this ensemble are exploring the edges of the musical cosmos.

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