William Robert “Bill” Dixon (October 5, 1925 – June 16, 2010) was an American composer, improviser, visual artist, activist, and educator. Dixon was one of the seminal figures in free jazz and late twentieth-century contemporary music. His was also a prominent voice arguing for artist's rights and insisting, through words and deeds, on the cultural and aesthetic richness of the African American music tradition. He played the trumpet, flugelhorn, and piano, often using electronic delay and reverb.
|Birth name||William Robert Dixon|
|Born||October 5, 1925|
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||June 16, 2010(aged 84)|
|Occupation(s)||Composer, visual artist, educator, musician|
|Instruments||Trumpet, flugelhorn, piano|
|Associated acts||Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor|
Dixon hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts. His family moved to Harlem, in New York City, in 1934. He enlisted in the Army in 1944; his unit served in Germany before he was discharged in 1946. His studies in music came relatively late in life, at the Hartnette Conservatory of Music (1946–1951), which he attended on the GI Bill. He studied painting at Boston University and the WPA Arts School and the Art Students League. From 1956 to 1962, he worked at the United Nations, where he founded the UN Jazz Society.
In the 1960s Dixon established himself as a major force in the jazz avant-garde. In 1964, Dixon organized and produced the 'October Revolution in Jazz', four days of music and discussions at the Cellar Café in Manhattan. The participants included pianist Cecil Taylor and bandleader Sun Ra. It was the first free-jazz festival of its kind. Dixon later co-founded the Jazz Composers Guild, a cooperative organization that sought to create bargaining power with club owners and effect greater media visibility. A key participant in the seminal Judson Dance Theater at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York City, Dixon was one of the first artists to produce concerts mixing free jazz and improvisational dance, spending several years in a close collaboration with dancer Judith Dunn, with whom he formed the Judith Dunn/Bill Dixon Company. He recorded relatively little during this period, though he co-led some releases with Archie Shepp and appeared on Cecil Taylor's Blue Note record Conquistador! in 1966. In 1967, he composed and conducted a score for the United States Information Agency film, The Wealth of a Nation, produced and directed by William Greaves.
Dixon was Professor of Music at Bennington College, Vermont, from 1968 to 1995, where he founded and chaired the college's Black Music Division. From 1970 to 1976 he played "in total isolation from the market places of this music," as he puts it. Solo trumpet recordings from this period were later released by Cadence Jazz Records and were collected on his self-released multi-CD set Odyssey, along with reproductions of his visual artwork and other material.
Dixon was noted for his extensive use of the pedal register, playing below the trumpet's commonly ascribed range and well into the trombone and tuba registers. He also made extensive use of half-valve techniques and used breath with or without engaging the traditional trumpet embouchure. He largely eschewed mutes, the exception being the harmon mute, with or without stem.
|1962||Archie Shepp – Bill Dixon Quartet||Savoy|
|1964||Bill Dixon 7-tette/Archie Shepp and the New York Contemporary 5||Savoy||Split LP|
|1966–67||Intents and Purposes||RCA Victor|
|1970–73||Bill Dixon 1982||Edizioni Ferrari||Limited edition LP|
|1980||Bill Dixon in Italy Volume One||Soul Note|
|1980||Bill Dixon in Italy Volume Two||Soul Note|
|1981||November 1981||Soul Note|
|1985||Thoughts||Soul Note||Released 1987|
|1988||Son of Sisyphus||Soul Note|
|1993||Vade Mecum||Soul Note|
|1993||Vade Mecum II||Soul Note|
|1998||Papyrus Volume I||Soul Note|
|1998||Papyrus Volume II||Soul Note|
|1999||Berlin Abbozzi||FMP||Released 2000. With Matthias Bauer, Klaus Koch, Tony Oxley|
|1970–2000||Odyssey||Archive Editions||Includes Collection, and tracks from Considerations 1 and Bill Dixon 1982|
|2007||Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra||Thrill Jockey||Released 2008|
|2007||17 Musicians in Search of a Sound: Darfur||AUM Fidelity|
|2008||Tapestries for Small Orchestra||Firehouse 12|
- Conquistador! (Blue Note, 1966, Cecil Taylor)
- Opium for Franz (Pipe, 1977, with Franz Koglman)
- The Enchanted Messenger: Live from Berlin Jazz Festival (Soul Note, 1996)
- Taylor/Dixon/Oxley (Victo, 2002, with Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley)
- Bill Dixon/Aaron Siegel/Ben Hall: Weight/Counterweight (Brokenresearch, 2009)
As producer or composerEdit
- The Marzette Watts Ensemble: The Marzette Watts Ensemble (Savoy, 1969) (producer and composer)
- Marc Levin and his Free Unit: The Dragon Suite (BYG Actuel, 1969) (producer)
- Jacques Coursil Unit: Way Ahead (BYG, 1969) (composer)
- Dewar, Andrew Raffo (2019). "Without Qualification: Bill Dixon on Black Music and Pedagogy". Jazz & Culture. 2: 101–112. doi:10.5406/jazzculture.2.2019.0101. JSTOR 10.5406/jazzculture.2.2019.0101.
- Allmusic biography
- Ratliff, Ben (June 19, 2010). "Bill Dixon, 84, Voice of Avant-Garde Jazz, Dies". The New York Times.
- Young, Ben (1998). Dixonia: A Bio-Discography of Bill Dixon. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 0313302758.
- Fordham, John (July 22, 2010). "Free-jazz trumpeter with a hypnotic, slow-moving sound". The Guardian. London. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
- Yanow, Scott (2001). The Trumpet Kings: The Players who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 131–132. ISBN 9780879306403.
- Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo. p. 138. ISBN 0306803771.
- Finding aid to the Judith Dunn Collection, 1963-1978. New York Public Library Archives & Manuscripts Division. http://archives.nypl.org/dan/23361
- "Bill Dixon Interview". May 15, 1975. hdl:11209/10294. Cite journal requires
- "Remembering Bill Dixon, Bennington Faculty Member, 1968-1995". June 17, 2010. hdl:11209/10144. Cite journal requires
- Neff, Joseph (January 25, 2017). "Graded on a Curve: The Bill Dixon Orchestra, Intents and Purposes, and the Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet, (s/t)". The Vinyl District: The Storefront.
- RIP Experimental Jazz Trumpeter Bill Dixon