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John Zorn: O'o (1986)

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John Zorn: O'o When John Zorn released The Dreamers (Tzadik) in 2008, it might have seemed like a temporary aberration: Zorn the master of the arbitrary (Cobra), the cutting edge (Torture Garden) and the anarchic (too many projects to mention) had embraced the genres of lounge and 1950s exotica to produce music that, perhaps ironically, approached easy listening, building on the more tuneful elements in his Electric Masada and Morricone projects. It seems the aberration wasn't temporary. On O'o Zorn returns to the same blend of genre elements and the same ensemble, with guitarist Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
b.1954
guitar
, keyboardist Jamie Saft
Jamie Saft
Jamie Saft

piano
and vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen in the foreground and bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Joey Baron
Joey Baron
Joey Baron
b.1955
drums
in the background, all of it accented by the brilliant vernacular percussion of Cyro Baptista
Cyro Baptista
Cyro Baptista
b.1950
percussion
.

The fundamental elements include the "jungle sounds" of Martin Denny, a tropical midnight soundscape of birdcalls and insect percussion, coupled with lushly resonant instrumentation. There's lounge a-plenty, but it covers terrain from surf guitar instrumentals to the Latin jazz of Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader
1925 - 1982
vibraphone
and Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
1928 - 1976
piano
to some sudden soulful piano that might recall Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Horace Silver
1928 - 2014
piano
or Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark
Sonny Clark
1931 - 1963
piano
. The clarity of Zorn's musical vision combines with the recovered elements to create sometimes startling emotional connections (that the CD is named for an extinct song bird is telling as is the booklet of bird drawings), as in the profoundly beautiful opening of "Akialoa," with its suggestion of John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
modality and Morricone soundscape. The individual performances are at a consistently high level, but it would be impossible not to single out Ribot for his uncanny range of guitar timbres, remarkable not simply for their variety but their intensity and unfailing aptness.

While The Dreamers might have seemed like a brilliantly executed one-off, O'o testifies not just to Zorn's absorption in the new style, but to the band's commitment as well. You might go some distance to find contemporary music with more precisely meaningful detail or dedication to nuance.


Track Listing: Miller's Crake; Akialoa; Po'o'uli ; Little Bittern; Mysterious Starling; Laughing Owl; Archaeopteryx; Solitaire; Piopio; The Zapata Rail; Kakawahie; Magdalena.

Personnel: Cyro Baptista: percussion; Joey Baron: drums; Trevor Dunn: bass; Marc Ribot: guitar; Jamie Saft: piano, organ; Kenny Wollesen: vibraphone.

Record Label: Tzadik

Style: Lounge/Exotica


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