Bill Dixon, Envoi

Dave Sumner

By Dave Sumner

on 01.31.12 in Reviews

When an artist passes, there is, justifiably, an added significance placed upon their final work. That Bill Dixon titled his last recording Envoi, which indicates a look back or summation, can’t help but ramp up the emotional impact. Recorded in 2010 at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle just before he died, trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon assembled an all-star cast of master improvisers (including Taylor Ho Bynum and Rob Mazurek) and unleashed a battery of brass instruments, vibes, percussion, contrabass clarinet and cello.

A final work that possesses the punch of his earlier albums

Ominous throaty notes like voices calling out from deep beneath the sea, the unnerving pitter patter of drumsticks that grow closer then fade with a crash of cymbals, cello like a haunting wind gusting amongst the trees, bursts of vibes like moonlight cutting through darkened clouds…and then, like the first hint of sunlight, the high call of trumpet and a promise of hope and safety. Dixon’s music is signified by emotionally incendiary cross-currents.

Making his mark as one of the seminal figures in the free jazz avant-garde movements of the late sixties, Bill Dixon continued recording up ’til the very end. His final work possesses all of the punch of earlier albums, and provides every reason to celebrate this recording while also contemplating jazz’s loss.