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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Nosferatu

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The idea of saxophonist/composer John Zorn writing music to accompany a production about vampires has exciting implications. After all, it would seem logical that a man who has, over the past 40 years, helped expand the scope of sounds that can be considered music should be able to craft something truly mind-bending when dealing with such a spooky subject. Surprisingly, however, Zorn has produced a relatively tame score that translates into an accessible album when confronted with the task of writing music for a Polish stage production of Bram Stoker's Dracula.Zorn's Nosferatu is a generally haunting album, but ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Zorn: Gnostic Preludes

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John ZornGnostic PreludesTzadik2012 Composer John Zorn is a man of many projects, genres and styles. When once asked about styles, in Option, he replied “I'm not afraid of styles; I like them all." He also has a short attention span and because of that his music is a unique aural crosscut of styles--be it avant jazz, classical, cartoon cutups, free improv, computer music--continuously plunging himself into less expected musical territories. Being an intrepid explorer and musical sponge, his wide-ranging interests are so vast and ever-changing that is futile to place him ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Zorn: In Search of the Miraculous

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John ZornIn Search of the MiraculousTzadik2010 John Zorn's compositions revel in a rare blend of allusion and mystery. His albums often exist both on a self-contained level as individual works of art, yet are simultaneously layered with tokens and tributes to the many artists who have shaped his unusually eclectic aesthetic. While the first album of his Alhambra Legacy compositional project consisted of a collection of light and airy melodies for piano trio, the second, In Search of the Miraculous, draws overtly for inspiration on Georges Gurdjieff, the 1920s Greek-Armenian mystic and ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

John Zorn: Dictee / Liber Novus

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John ZornDictée / Liber NovusTzadik2010 If the ever-productive multi-instrumentalist John Zorn's compositional oeuvre yields one simple theme, it is the sheer variety of his interests and vision. Perhaps none of his personal oeuvres better encapsulate this than his file card compositions. These are usually extended pieces that consist of a vast number of diverse musical ideas, written down on file cards, which Zorn then cuts between in the studio, often at a rapid pace. Some of these “scenes" last only a few seconds, while others develop slightly longer. Between the high-speed cuts ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn / George Lewis / Bill Frisell: More News For Lulu

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More News For Lulu was this trio's second album and, despite being recorded in 1989 and originally released on hatOLOGY Records (the father label to HatHut Records) in 1992, its crisp attack and buoyant execution holds up rather immaculately with this overdue reissue. A hybrid studio/live program, the artists effortlessly work through bop, and swing motifs with slight nods to abstract expressionism in choice spots. And the overall dynamic is abetted by the record label's pristine audio processing.

The musicians perform compositions by pianist Sonny Clark, saxophonist Hank Mobley, trumpeter Kenny Dorham and pianist Freddie Redd. Guitarist Bill ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Femina

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There are two notable elements to this album, before even listening to its contents. One is that composer John Zorn has created a work that pays tribute to female creators (his name checks include Yoko Ono, Agatha Christie and Joan Of Arc). The other is that he's making a return to his fabled file-card system of composition. The Cobra piece was the most notorious, notable and potent manifestation of this technique, where Zorn would prepare musical strategies to be spontaneously displayed in front of his playing cast, prompting immediate action and exacerbated resourcefulness. In keeping with both ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: O'o

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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, keyboardist Jamie Saft and vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Femina

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John Zorn returns to his famous “file card" technique of composing with Femina, a disc he wrote and conducts with an all-woman lineup, dedicated to women in the arts. Among those honored here are Meredith Monk, Simone de Beauvoir, Frida Kahlo, Madame Blavatsky, Isadora Duncan, Hélène Cixous, Gertrude Stein, Abe Sada, Sylvia Plath, Louise Bourgeois, Margaret Mead, Loie Fuller, Dorothy Parker, Yoko Ono and the moon goddess En Hedu'Anna.

Zorn first released Spillane (Elektra, 1988), a tribute to detective pulp fiction writer Mickey Spillane, composed with his technique of writing sound blocks on note cards that could be ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Femina

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Composer, bandleader and Tzadik label founder John Zorn has long honored women in the arts, through dedications such as “Redbird" (for Agnes Martin), “Duras" (for Marguerite Duras) and “In the Very Eye of Night" (for Maya Deren), and through Tzadik's Oracles Series, which “celebrates the diversity and creativity of women in experimental music." Femina is his first piece performed by an all female ensemble and is dedicated to women artists of various disciplines, including Hildegard von Bingen, Louis Bourgeois, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath, Meredith Monk and Yoko Ono, among many others.

Contained in an intricate die-cut case, with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: The Crucible

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John Zorn is not one to rest on his laurels. It is probably not possible for Zorn to rest, period. With The Crucible, the fourth installment of his Moonchild band, the saxophonist/composer delivers a recording that will be attractive to both hardcore metal and jazz fans.

Twenty years ago Zorn unleashed his band Naked City, its brand of noise/jazz/metal and predilection for musical violence a revelation. He had already shown, in his index card cues, a mix/match, start/stop method of composing; and a love for cartoon, film, and hardcore sounds that took shape in The Big Gundown (Tzadik, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: O'o

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Named after an extinct Hawaiian bird, O'o is the charming follow up to the self-titled debut of composer John Zorn's most accessible project, The Dreamers. Culled from Zorn's inner circle of longstanding collaborators, this all-star sextet of Downtown veterans explores his most tuneful compositions, threading aspects of easy listening, exotica, film soundtracks, surf, and world music into an evocative panorama.

Zorn's recent forays into conventional song forms and traditional structures reveal a softening approach to composition. Though no stranger to melody or harmony, Zorn's musical statements have become more cohesive and predictable over the past few years--the polar ...

PODCAST

John Zorn: Radio Interview

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This rare interview with one of the most innovative of American composers, John Zorn, is from 1999. Right off the bat the pair discussed the Masada jazz quartet and book of compositions, then the conversation led to other performers Zorn has collaborated and performed with, including Derek Bailey. Comer & Zorn engage in a detailed conversation about Zorn's chamber music compositions, focusing on his string quartet Momento Mori. Zorn doesn't give many interviews, and this one is very candid and fun!Hear more interviews by Chris Comer with artists associated with Zorn, such as Fred Frith, ...

BOOK REVIEWS

John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression

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John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression John Brackett Hardcover; 248 pages ISBN: 0253220254 Indiana University Press 2009

Coming to grips with the prolific and ungainly output of composer/improviser/sonic scavenger John Zorn is a Herculean task. In John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression, the first book-length treatment of this pivotal Downtown icon, scholar John Brackett moves away from the clichéd interpretation of Zorn as a postmodernist (with all the term's implications of disjuncture, pastiche and collapse of narrative and stylistic unity) to offer a more nuanced interpretation, one that considers his role as ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

John Zorn: Filmworks XXIII: El General

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"Los Cristeros," the opening track of John Zorn's twenty-third Filmworks volume, starts gently enough, building from a bass and marimba groove. Then Marc Ribot's electric guitar enters. Brash and distorted, with the cocksure step of a gunslinger, and the frayed edge of a fedora, Ribot's solo keens with the energy and inspiration of the best.

Continuing in the vein of recent Zorn projects, the album features simple, hypnotic melodies for eclectic instrumentation. Most tracks never quite recapture the explosiveness of the opener, but this isn't really a knock, as Kenny Wollesen's bass marimba and Rob Burger's piano and accordion bring ...



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