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John Zorn: A Bookshelf On Top Of The Sky

Jim Santella By

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John Zorn
A Bookshelf On Top Of The Sky
Tzadik
2004

Who is John Zorn?

Claudia Heuermann answers the question with a revealing biographical documentary. She spent ten years with Zorn—interviewing and watching, listening and asking, following him everywhere in order to discover the essence of his work.

Zorn describes his music through demonstration. He shows us how he puts it all together, and how his various projects differ. During the film we see how effective he is in a variety of contexts—as a teacher, a creative artist and a performer. Live footage includes his work with Masada, Naked City and Cobra.

The music footage comes from rehearsals, performances and recording sessions, during which Zorn shows how it comes together. He works with a large number of creative musicians in varying formats. We hear some of his comfortable, country stride contrasted with his eerie, electronic motions. We hear the Jewish and Arabic influences along with the down-home blues connection. Along with standard instrumental line-ups, we follow Zorn as he employs special sound effects in pursuit of his musical goals.

At one point, Zorn takes his alto way up high, toggling the octave key repeatedly, while making a series of wails and high-pitched instrumental screams. Later, he's seen bopping excitedly with the spirit of Charlie Parker. At another time, we find him working in a traditional Jewish context. Zorn's music takes many different shapes, but most of it remains accessible to the general listening audience.

Through this illuminating documentary, some of the secrets behind John Zorn, the creative artist, are unveiled.

12 Stories About John Zorn: The Present; Events; Reality; Transformations; About Sound; The Past; About Time; Concerns; Memories; Buried Secrets; Reflections; A Bookshelf On Top Of The Sky.

Personnel: John Zorn; alto saxophone; Dave Douglas: trumpet; Greg Cohen, Mark Dresser, Bill Laswell, Stefan Shäfer, Mason Wendell: bass; Joey Baron, Dave Lombardo, Kenny Wollesen, Jim Pugliese, Ikue Mori: drums; William Winant, Cyro Baptista, Susie Ibarra, Stefan Blum, Roberto Rodriguez, Matthias Kaul: percussion; Mark Ribot, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Michael Schröder: guitar; Hartmut Leistritz, Wayne Horvitz, Anthony Coleman, Jamie Saft: piano; Josh Roseman, Jim Staley, Uwe Dierksen: trombone; Mark Feldman, Joyce Hammann, Jennifer Choi, Ariadne Daskalakis: violin; Erik Friedlander, Anna Carewe: cello; Astrid Schmeling: flute; Otis Klöber: bassoon; Nele B. Nelle: clarinet; Chris Speed: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Briggan Krauss: alto saxophone; David Shea, John Medeski: keyboards; Mike Patton, Mihoko Fujimura, Yamatsuka Eye: vocals.

Program Notes: Approximate running time 82 minutes.


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