All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

7

John Zorn: The Urmuz Epigrams

Don Phipps By

Sign in to view read count
Prolific composer John Zorn's The Urmuz Epigrams offers up an infectious mix of Stockhausen effects, polyrhythmic percussion, and twisty tunes, a combination which produces music that is unsettling, surprising, and humorous—often at the same time.

All the pieces repeat themselves. Zorn notates the first rendition as "modern" and the second as "original." And while the dual versions of each piece offer variations, the general structures of the compositions remain similar.

Zorn performs with Ches Smith, a percussionist in perfect sync with Zorn's odd and nightmarish visions. The musical arcs of each composition propel the imagination—as do the creative and unusual titles. Just what is Zorn trying to tell us with these epigrams? "The Pelican or the Pelicaness," for example, races along like an African wildebeest fleeing from some unknown danger—where is the pelican? There's some Steve Reich minimalism in the piece, but above the repetitive lines of Smith's vibraphone, Zorn uses all sorts of vocal and organ effects to add strange and exciting textures.

"After That the Funnel Became a Symbol" creates a surreal slumber that is interrupted abruptly by a mangled electronic and sax sound blast. "Desperate from Having Been Left Without a Bladder" sounds like mad laughter. The aptly titled "This Piano Lid Serves as a Wall," opens up with piano phrasing reminiscent of Erik Satie's Gymnopédies, but then the sweet French chords are dissected and gutted with strange pig squeals, thunderstorm effects, and dog pantings.

"With Wet Clothes and Disheveled Hair He Wandered in the Dead of Night in Search of Shelter" is another surreal epigram. The oddly arhythmic effects of percussion below the organ chords allude to fleeing from some monstrous musical id at night, ducking under dark concrete urban highway underpasses as cars rumble overhead. It all comes to a screeching halt with the sound of a bomb going off.

Funny, inventive, challenging, surreal—The Urmuz Epigrams delivers provocative and probing musical narratives about the absurdity of life. It is to Zorn's credit, that he is able to achieve such fascinating variety within a unified context. For those who want to experience what Lou Reed called "a walk on the wild side," this album is recommended.

Track Listing: Disgusted With Life; This Piano Lid Serves as a Wall; With Wet Clothes and Disheveled Hair He Wandered in the Dead of Night in Search of Shelter; Then Again, Who Amongst Us Can Complain; A Rain of Threats and Screams; The Pelican or the Pelicaness; After That the Funnel Became a Symbol; Desperate from Having Been Left Without a Bladder.

Personnel: John Zorn: saxophone, piano, organ, sound effects, guitar, bass, game call, percussion, voice; Ches Smith: drums, percussion, vibraphone, glockenspiel, voice.

Title: The Urmuz Epigrams | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Tzadik

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Decay Of The Angel CD/LP/Track Review
Decay Of The Angel
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 14, 2018
Read Encontros - Orquestra Atlantica CD/LP/Track Review
Encontros - Orquestra Atlantica
by Chris Mosey
Published: August 14, 2018
Read Sorrows & Triumphs CD/LP/Track Review
Sorrows & Triumphs
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: August 14, 2018
Read Od Ponedelnik CD/LP/Track Review
Od Ponedelnik
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: August 14, 2018
Read Coast to Crossroads CD/LP/Track Review
Coast to Crossroads
by Mark Sullivan
Published: August 13, 2018
Read Body CD/LP/Track Review
Body
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 13, 2018
Read "After Bach" CD/LP/Track Review After Bach
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: March 2, 2018
Read "Země" CD/LP/Track Review Země
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: March 12, 2018
Read "Aspiration" CD/LP/Track Review Aspiration
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "Brightbird" CD/LP/Track Review Brightbird
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 19, 2018
Read "Sculptures" CD/LP/Track Review Sculptures
by Patrick Burnette
Published: March 2, 2018
Read "Dimebag" CD/LP/Track Review Dimebag
by Samuel Stroup
Published: December 8, 2017