American Jazz Trumpeter Bill Dixon’s Intents and Purposes follows a story of always evolving pages. A changing composition that moves from both graceful to chaotic within single notes of each other. The lovely opening features quickly changing tones as the cries of Dixon’s trumpet fold into frame and eventually swallow the piece whole.
“Metamorphosis 1962-1966” starts the journey of Intents and Purposes sailing, with a tranquil beginning before slowly succumbing to a varied percussion and horn part that sounds almost free-form. The changes in tone are a constant variable throughout this record, Bill Dixon and the rest of his instrumentalists will change from a nighttime cityscape element of smooth jazz to a more atmospheric change with subtle saxophones and rolling percussion. “Metamorphosis 1962-1966” and Intents and Purposes as a whole piece will constantly shift in-between these methods, almost creating two albums in one package.
The Bill Dixon Orchestra brings along 9-separate musicians not including Mr. Dixon himself who will fill in on the trumpet and flugelhorn sections which resembles a trumpet, but instead has a wider cone for sound to escape out of. Also present is Jimmy Cheatham on bass trombone who had worked previously with Duke Ellington, Robin Kenyatta who fills in the alto sax sections, Byard Lancaster on bass clarinet and alto sax. Catherine Norris on the cello, George Marge on English horn and flute, Reggie Workman and Jimmy Garrison on the upright bass, and Robert Frank Pozar with Marc Levin on percussion. Collectively, The Bill Dixon Orchestra creates a sound like no other jazz ensemble, the wailing instruments paired with the rapid but lucid percussion makes for an avant-garde style of music. It is extremely experimental, but ultimately rewarding in the final product.
The following track, “Nightfall Pieces I” results in an opening of flutes and a slowly emerging trumpet that only trickles in for a moment’s notice. The horns gradually begin to show their colors and become a cornerstone in the track with the screeching trumpet that plays over the gentle flute. The combination sounds outlandish and unappealing, but The Bill Dixon Orchestra somehow manages to evenly distribute these horns and sudden outbursts in a way that only contributes to the track’s mysterious nature. “Nightfall Pieces I” only lasts a short few minutes before The Bill Dixon Orchestra moves onto the next piece, “Voices.”
“Voices” feels similar to “Nightfall Pieces I,” where the instrumentation is enigmatic and ultimately atmospheric. Instead of emerging horns however, the percussion begins to slowly trickle in and sudden timpani bounces or small clicks of a rim or cymbal dome are featured. The horns of “Voices” take less of an exploding approach and instead sound much smoother and more in tune with the tone of the track than previously featured. Dixon makes great work of his trumpet, casually moving the track along without making any serious waves, just subtle gestures that seem to echo on throughout.
This is until the track slowly begins to pick up tempo, Dixon starts to become less tense with his play style and is able to produce more notes that wail over the rest of the instrumentation. The cymbal dome hits gradually become more cumbersome and act as a device to bring the track up to more of a run than a somber and gentle walk. The bass line in these sections of the track is more declarative, almost making an effort to be heard over the rest of the shifting instruments. The constant cymbal crashes now change the track’s mood and increase the level of intensity within “Voices.” What was once a compassionate walk in the track’s opening, has now become more of a stirring piece until finally reaching the third section of “Voices” where everything shifts yet again.
In the final section of “Voices,” the percussion comes in with mighty tom hits and these lay the ground work for the rest of the instrumentalists. The horns yet again wail while the clarinet and cello play more of a backing layering on the track. It is easily apparent that the horns will become the focal point of the rest of “Voices,” as they continually shake the rest of the instrumentalists and slowly overpower the track until only the bass and percussion are present in “Voices” final ending. The short journey of The Bill Dixon Orchestra on Intents and Purposes comes to a close with the final track, “Nightfall Pieces II.”
A seemingly fitting conclusion and continuation of the “Nightfall Pieces” saga, “Nightfall Pieces II” is much more reliant on the horns of the track and lets the flutes play an atmospheric style of notes that instead act as supports on the rest of the instruments present in the track. The trumpet becomes the center-fold of the track, building intriguing from the very start of “Nightfall Pieces II” until the somber sounding silence that follows.
Not only does Intents and Purposes follow this intriguing style, but it never gives up the veil of mystery. It lets the listener think of these sinister situations where these instruments would come together and play a story. Intents and Purposes keeps atmosphere at its side, never letting go, even when walking into the loudest silence ever heard.