Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bill Dixon, Guelph, Chicago Underground

Blogging at times seems more conducive to the sideways slide of the signifier, the impulse to surf, scroll, cut-and-paste or point over there, rather than the essayistic discipline of in-depth attention.

That and this too: anyone in my vicinity for a bit of jazz time gets an earful of Guelph. I know I know, there are other jazz festivals in the world and I've even been to a few, but Guelph 2006 was one of Dem Changes for me. It rocked my world.

Not just me, it turns out, and here the sideways click:

Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra

Thrill Jockey
thrill 192 • 2008

Back in September of 2006 both Rob Mazurek and Bill Dixon were performing at the Guelph International Jazz Festival in Ontario, Canada, where the two horn players met for the first time there at a workshop the latter was conducting. Later that day Mazurek saw his long-time hero perform for the first time, but it was an impromptu performance after Dixon's sound check that really left a mark on him. A photographer wanted a shot of Dixon playing his trumpet. "He put horn to lips and played the most sublime, powerful sound I have ever heard from any player ever," says Mazurek. "It was as if the church was going to crack open and a million white birds would fly from his chest, leaving traces of gold and silver in the light-blasted sky. What felt like an eternity was, in fact, one minute of sound. He ended the piece with an ascending flurry, and it was as if his sound had penetrated the granite pillars to be embedded in the rock for all of eternity." Clearly, an impression was made.

Although Mazurek had long been inspired by Dixon's life and work, meeting him and hearing him play in the flesh was an altogether revelatory experience. Mazurek was enthralled when his elder responded in return, catching the gig by the Sao Paulo Underground, with whom Mazurek was playing, and then charging backstage once the gig was over. "He walked directly up to me, gave me a big hug, and said that the performance was powerful and intense and fantastic, and the juxtaposition of rhythms, the dense structures, the sound, the sound...," he recalls. "I was stunned."


So as it happens I was standing about 10 feet away from Mazurek and Dixon when they met at the workshop described in paragraph one above. I missed the sound check, but I was there shortly after for the concert in the church, and it were beyond my wildest, as they say.... The next day I got to hang--they say this, really they do--with Bill and his wife Sharon a bit, and that too were way beyond awesome.

I gotta get this new record, of course, and I gotta get back there next year.

No comments: