Dixon's trumpet and flugelhorn improvisations flow, jab, dance, flutter, growl and brood through, around and over the other musicians. In some cases, the other musicians are Dixon himself, overdubbed. The first of the two brief Nightfall Pieces has multiples of Dixon and flutist George Marge creating a mesmerizing soundscape. In the second, Dixon ruminates in call-and-response with himself across the stereo channels. Favoring low notes on his own instruments and those of others, he employs the ten-piece group in Metamorphosis to create rich substrata voicings. Bass trombone, bass clarinet, cello and two double basses are among the instruments that provide oddly reassuring contrast with Dixon, alto saxophonist Robin Kenyatta and bass clarinetist Bayard Lancaster, whose solos search almost to the edge of desperation. Metamorphosis includes written passages of subtle complexity that it would be easy to overlook in the passion of the performance.
In Voices, whether he achieves it on paper or by contrivance in the studio, Dixon manages to give his trumpet, Lancaster's bass clarinet, Jimmy Garrison's bass, Catherine Norris's cello and Robert Frank Pozar's drums fullness of sound one might expect from an ensemble half again bigger. Dixon's choice of musicians was eclectic; avant gardists like Kenyatta, Lancaster and Garrison alongside the mainstream trombonist Jimmy Cheatham and Marge, a reliable reed specialist of the New York studio scene.
To his credit, reissue producer Jonathan Horwich saw to it that the Dixon album looks like the original RCA Victor LP, down to the striking cover shot. It is a reminder that record packages were once a pleasure to handle and the notes easy to read. The liner notes are included as an insert that unfolds to nearly the size of an LP sleeve. More important, the quality of the sound recorded in RCA's storied studio B is flawlessly remastered. In a brief addendum to the notes, Horwich writes of Intents and Purposes, ''It stands as one of the most important and revolutionary musical expressions of the 20th century.''
That may be true.
''There was nothing like it before 1966/67 and there has been nothing like it since.''
That is true. --Doug Ramsey, Rifftides, 3/28/11
Very few records are genuinely unique; musicians usually work with known frameworks, and in the rare instances where really new territory is charted, it doesn't take long for settlers to arrive. When RCA released trumpeter Bill Dixon's Intents and Purposes in 1967, however, it sounded like nothing under the sun, and for whatever reason, neither Dixon nor anyone else has explored further along the path he blazed here. On two short pieces for flute and trumpet, and two longer pieces for ensembles of five and ten musicians, he references modern classical devices as well as jazz, and creates a completely organic synthesis. The overall mood is somber and deeply reflective, though Dixon and his young reedmen, Byard Lancaster and Robin Kenyatta, do tear loose for some very impassioned statements. Despite these fireworks, what impresses most is the writing. The textures make us imagine Boulez collaborating with Ellington, the harmonies seem to unite everything from the earth to the sky, and beyond all of this is the sureness with which the music unfolds: a story telling itself in the only possible way, as even developments that seem superfluous when introduced prove to hold essential truths. This masterpiece has only gained in stature with the passing of time. FIVE STARS (first ever 5 Star review from this reviewer!) --Duck Baker, The Absolute Sound