The first of two volumes released from this session, Vade Mecum
features this remarkably nimble and creative quartet under the direction of Bill Dixon
. Not quite free improvisation, Dixon
's compositions provide loose frameworks for the musicians, creating subtle structural spaces for the to investigate. In this sense, his work is akin to (and perhaps an updating of) Cecil Taylor
's classic Conquistador!, on which Dixon
participated. The expansiveness and airiness of the sound here is one of this record's most striking qualities. The two bassists, Guy and Parker, have very different but complimentary personae; the former fleet and inquisitive, the latter dark and probing. With the two of them occupying the middle ground, underpinned by Oxley's uniquely coloristic percussion, Dixon
's flights have all the naturalness and unpredictability of a bird's. Vade Mecum II
, released separately, arguably attains even greater heights than this recording, but both are vital documents representing the state of improvised music in the '90s.