Bill Dixon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bill Dixon
Bill Dixon.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Robert Dixon
Born(1925-10-05)October 5, 1925
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 16, 2010(2010-06-16) (aged 84)
GenresFree jazz
Occupation(s)Composer, visual artist, educator, musician
InstrumentsTrumpet, flugelhorn, piano
Years active1960–2010
Associated actsArchie Shepp, Cecil Taylor

Bill Dixon (October 5, 1925 – June 16, 2010) was an American musician, composer, visual artist, and educator. Dixon was one of the seminal figures in the free jazz movement. He played the trumpet, flugelhorn, and piano, often using electronic delay and reverberation.[1]


Dixon hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts. His family later moved to Harlem, New York City when he was about seven.[2] His studies in music came relatively late in life, at the Hartnette Conservatory of Music (1946–1951). He studied painting at Boston University and the WPA Arts School and the Art Students League. During the early 1950s he had a job at the United Nations and founded the UN Jazz Society.[3]

In the 1960s Dixon established himself as a major force in the jazz avant-garde movement.[2] In 1964, Dixon organized and produced the 'October Revolution in Jazz', four days of music and discussions at the Cellar Café in Manhattan.[4] The participants included notable musicians Cecil Taylor and Sun Ra among others. It was the first free-jazz festival of its kind. Dixon later founded the Jazz Composers Guild,[3] a cooperative organization that sought to create bargaining power with club owners and effect greater media visibility. He was relatively little recorded during this period, though he co-led some releases with Archie Shepp[1] 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.[5]

He was Professor of Music at Bennington College, Vermont, from 1968 to 1995, where he founded the college's Black Music Division.[6] 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 later collected on the self-released multi-CD set Odyssey along with other material.

He was one of four featured musicians in the Canadian documentary Imagine the Sound (along with Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, and Paul Bley), 1981.

In recent years he recorded with Cecil Taylor, Tony Oxley,[3] William Parker, Rob Mazurek, and many others.

Dixon's playing 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 made extensive use of half-valve techniques and the use of breath with or without engaging the traditional trumpet embouchure. He largely eschewed the use of mutes, the exception being his use of the harmon mute, with or without stem.

On June 16, 2010, Bill Dixon died in his sleep at his home in North Bennington, Vermont after suffering from an undisclosed illness.[2][7]


As leader[edit]

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
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
1972–75 Considerations 2 Fore
1970–76 Collection Cadence
1973–76 Considerations 1 Fore
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
2010 Envoi Victo

As sideman[edit]

  • 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 composer[edit]

  • 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)


  1. ^ a b Allmusic biography
  2. ^ a b c Ratliff, Ben (June 19, 2010). "Bill Dixon, 84, Voice of Avant-Garde Jazz, Dies". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c Fordham, John (July 22, 2010). "Free-jazz trumpeter with a hypnotic, slow-moving sound". London: The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  4. ^ Litweiler, John (1984). The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958. Da Capo. p. 138. ISBN 0306803771.
  5. ^ "Bill Dixon Interview". May 15, 1975.
  6. ^ "Remembering Bill Dixon, Bennington Faculty Member, 1968-1995". June 17, 2010.
  7. ^ RIP Experimental Jazz Trumpeter Bill Dixon

Further reading[edit]

  • Young, Ben (1998). Dixonia: A Bio-Discography of Bill Dixon. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313302758.

External links[edit]