Bill Dixon

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Bill Dixon
Bill Dixon.jpg
Background information
Born (1925-10-05)October 5, 1925
Origin Nantucket, Massachusetts, United States
Died June 16, 2010(2010-06-16) (aged 84)
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, visual artist, educator, musician
Years active 1960–2010
Associated acts Archie 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 as part of his trumpet playing.[1]


Dixon hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts. His family later moved to Harlem, New York City when he was about 7.[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. 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.[4]

He was Professor of Music at Bennington College, Vermont, from 1968 to 1995, where he founded the college's Black Music Division.[5] 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 after suffering from an undisclosed illness.[2][6]


As leader[edit]

Soul Note Records
Other labels

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. ^ "Bill Dixon Interview". 1975-05-15. 
  5. ^ "Remembering Bill Dixon, Bennington Faculty Member, 1968-1995". 2010-06-17. 
  6. ^ RIP Experimental Jazz Trumpeter Bill Dixon

External links[edit]