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John Zorn and Bill Laswell: Memoria


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John Zorn and Bill Laswell: Memoria
John Zorn and Bill Laswell, two towering figures of the New York Downtown scene, have once again joined forces to deliver a captivating musical experience, entitled Memoria. Following the success of their previous collaboration, The Cleansing, (Tzadik, 2021) this new release pays tribute to three artistic visionaries whose legacies continue to inspire and shape the realms of creativity and artistic integrity.

The album title, Memoria, serves as a heartfelt tribute to three influential figures who have passed away: saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Wayne Shorter, and percussionist Milford Graves. The three compositions on the album reflect the spirit and essence of these musical heroes and mavericks who left indelible marks on the artistic world. Zorn and Laswell's intention was to pay homage to these friends and legends, capturing their personal feelings of loss and reverence through their music.

With a collaboration spanning over four and a half decades, Zorn and Laswell have continually pushed the boundaries of contemporary music. From their work on various studio recordings to their performances together in Painkiller, alongside legendary drummers, their partnership has been marked by intensity, exploration, and a desire to pioneer new musical territories.

Throughout the album, the duo explores a more ambient edge, creating a musical landscape characterized by telepathic improvisational interplay and unique virtuosity. Both artists demonstrate a profound musical understanding and an intuitive connection which are manifest in their expressive performances. The album opens with "Pharoah Sanders," where Zorn channels the spirit of the renowned saxophonist. The atmosphere is tranquil and introspective, and their instruments intertwine in a delicate dance, creating a sonic landscape in which their deep understanding and connection are evident in their interplay.

The interplay between Zorn's saxophone and Laswell's bass is captivating, culminating in a startling shriek from Zorn, met with Laswell's sympathetic scrapes and harmonics. As the track progresses, Laswell's recognizable bass takes over, contributing echoing dub elements which further enhance the ethereal ambiance.

Throughout the album, Zorn and Laswell venture into unconventional territories, using their instruments in unexpected ways, resulting in raw and unrefined beauty. Laswell's bass provides a deep, colorful foundation, flowing like a current, while Zorn's saxophone floats with intensity, showcasing his mastery of phonics. The improvisations unfold naturally, with the duo responding to each other's cues and pushing the boundaries of their instruments. The improvisations, recorded live in real-time, capture the raw essence of their musical dialogue. The duo's deep understanding and connection are evident in their interplay, as they navigate the sonic terrain with precision and sensitivity.

"Milford Graves" begins with an arresting soundscape reminiscent of an air raid, setting a dramatic tone for the composition. Zorn and Laswell explore the depths of their instruments, pushing boundaries and venturing into unconventional sonic territories. The result is an intense and immersive experience which captures the spirit of Graves' adventurous approach to music. In "Wayne Shorter," the duo embraces more melodic improvisational lines, paying tribute to the influential saxophonist's lyrical style. Zorn's saxophone weaves intricate melodies, while Laswell's bass provides a solid foundation, grounding the composition with its fluidity and depth.

Memoria is an album which thrives on its free-flowing nature, allowing the artists' creativity to take center stage. The intensity and sincerity of their performances are palpable, making for an immersive and engaging listening experience. As a whole, it stands as a testament to the artistic prowess of Zorn and Laswell. Their ability to navigate the realms of improvisation with such grace and purpose is truly remarkable. This album not only pays homage to the artistic legends who have influenced them but also serves as a testament to the timeless power of modern improvisation. It is a beautiful collection which showcases the best of Zorn and Laswell's musical synergy, leaving a deep appreciation for their artistry and the legacies they honor.

Track Listing

Pharoah Sanders; Milford Graves; Wayne Shorter


John Zorn
saxophone, alto

Album information

Title: Memoria | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Tzadik

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