Wednesday, December 10, 2008


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

Head Exploding Star Rob Mazurek continues to enjoy an exciting career, neatly treading the line between Chicago’s fertile post-rock scene and all-out free jazz. Indeed, he provides a handy figurehead for that nexus, in that the point he occupies is now so thoroughly associated with both of those musical movements that they have probably now, or will soon merge altogether. For the second ESO release, Mazurek was lucky enough to attract the attention of Bill Dixon, who not only agreed to play on the set, but composed the two-part suite (“Entrances”) which opens and closes the album. Sandwiched between them is Mazurek’s “Constellations for Innerlight Projections (For Bill Dixon)”, so all in all it made sense to credit the project to Bill Dixon with… As with last year’s amazing We Are All From Somewhere Else, the Orchestra, made up of 13 Chicago improvising music scenesters, employ everything under the sun, from free blowing to melodic noodling to good old-fashioned space-age big band swinging, and once again flutist Nicole Mitchell is on hand to nearly steal the show. But Bill Dixon holds his own, too, and the end result is a thrilling recording which rewards repeat listens. Given the ever-present need for new and unpredictable sounds, it is perhaps no surprise that free jazz is alive and well; the big surprise is that its health is due in some measure to the mathrockers. With each daring and fresh release, they threaten their own oblivion, bound to become instead simply the next generation of improvisers. This record feels like a tacit acknowledgment of that very fact, a nod of appreciation from an elder to his natural descendents.

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