John Zorn: Classic or Dud?

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Just purchased the 3rd volume in Zorn's 'Music Romance' series called 'The Gift.' It has the Morricone, surf, lounge theme to it. The songs arn't the stongest in the world but I like it. Marc Ribot on guitar, Joey Baron on drums and Trevor Dunn on bass... I just *really* like listening to those guys play together. Plus a Mike Patton appearance and awesome artwork by Trevor Brown. This is perhaps the first Zorn record I've bought in a couple years that I haven't been dissapointed in. Discuss.

chaki, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I've been thinking of picking up that album. I'd say classic...with Zorn being as prolific and experimental as he is, there's bound to be a number of duds in his catalog, but I like a lot of what I've heard.

More specifically: Masada 'Live in Seville 2000', Filmworks XIII, and Music Romance vol. 2 are classics, while I can't get with most of his game pieces or Masada 'Live in Taipei 1995' (most because of the sound quality).

Jordan, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Who has heard enough to form an opinion of him? May as well just run down what I know:

Duds: I thought Locus Solus was incredibly boring. Naked City didn't do anything for me (I kept wanting it to be more intense.) I don't know the name of it, but I bought and sold a CD that has stories read in Japanese and Vietnamese to guitar accompianment; another snoozer.

Classic: The Circle Maker is really great. Also, I like Painkiller's Guts of a Virgin. The Morricioni tribute I think is very overrated (not near as fun as listening to the original), but still good. And I have a Filmworks, I think No. 5, that is great. Or maybe it is No. 4...I know that it's the soundtrack to a Japanese porno film, but then that probably only narrows it down to 10 records for Zorn.

Mark, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I haven't heard much John Zorn but I've heard Naked City and you don't think it's INTENSE enough? For every couple of reflective texture/song things there's at least one bracing and balls-out purge of really aggressive noise. Isn't Yamatsuka Eye on there?? It seems all over the place to me, but I wouldn't accuse it of being soft. I feel like Zorn kind of didn't have a resting state at that point, a ground that he wanted to be familiar with, and Masada is kind like his searching for that. There's definitely more to hold onto, more of a thread to follow w/the Masada stuff. I like Filmworks a lot. End communication.

Tracer Hand, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I didn't find Naked City all that intense either. Or the Leng T'che stuff, or whatever the short-and-loud half of that black box is called. (Not that the slow-and-torturous half was intense either.)

Things I have enjoyed: Masada, Circle Maker, Godard/Spillane.

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I only own that Naked City album in which JZ and his minions play covers of movie-themes... and it's fun! I've heard that the Painkiller stuff is great (a blend of thrash-jazz and metal). I was tempted to buy Bar Kohkba (hope it's spelled correctly) 'cause I love the Kletzmer-meets-punk-meets-jazz mentality but I listened to a couple of samples online and it was a bit too relaxed for my tastes. I was hoping for a more furious and swinging affair! Still, I love the man, his attitude toward music and everything...

So: Classic

Simone, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

I'm more or less a Zorn fan, but it's kind of hard to unabashedly love somebody who is clearly a huge prick in a lot of ways. His music is excellent, though. Torture Garden (the short and fast part of the Naked City "Black Box") is one of my favorite albums, and most of his other stuff I've at least liked. Except Painkiller, but only because of Laswell. An underrated work of his which isn't on Tzadik is the Zorn/Fred Frith meeting "The Art Of Memory". Excellent skronk value, and whoever said he was the best hard bop altoist in the last twenty years was on the money - blink and you'd miss it, but his blowing on those Masada records is ridiculous. Classic.

Dave M., Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
I'm more interested in his modern classical oriented works, but...to me, I would say "classic".

'Elegy' is a truly wonderful 30 minutes to spend listening to (with some brief Mike Patton typical tortured squeals thrown in there, for good measure).

Also, 'Duras:Duchamp' is quite solid. 'Aporias' is and alright listen (though, this one isn't as interesting and/or captivating as the first two mentioned). Also, "Kol Nidre" is a wonderfully touching (and quite mournful) piece (found on 'The Strig Quartets' and some other collection of his).

I'm not big on his thrash and gash jazz-fusions, though. However, some of his surf guitar stuff and other things found on collections like the 'FilmWorks' series or 'Music Romance' (that you've mentioned) is nice, too.

Also, his piece "Spillane" (one cd has "Godard" with it and the one I have has the Kronos Quartet played "Forbidden Fruit") is worth a listen.

michael g. breece, Sunday, 1 July 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

five months pass...
Classic overall. He has so many albums that his number of bad ones is larger than most (but of course, his good ones are ridiculous).

Especially classic: All Naked City, with the possible exceptions of Leng T'che or Heretic, all Masada (even though they sound a little similar), Bar Kokhba, Kristallnacht, Redbird, Spillane, Circle Maker, Cynical Hysterie Hour, Duras: Duchamp, Angelus Novus, News for Lulu, Filmworks 8.

Duds: Mystic Fugu Orch (with Eye), most Painkiller (exception live "Rituals" with Keiiji Haino), Aporias, not a big fan of the game pieces

dleone, Wednesday, 5 December 2001 01:00 (eighteen years ago) link

one year passes...
In my posts on other Zorn threads I was giving props to zorn's forays into free improv with duos between chadbourne and frith on incus, the trio 'harras' on avant (also got company '91 vol 3 where he's playing in various groupings...i love it and will get vol 1 and 2, on incus).

I thought I'd revive the earliest zorn thread to say I just got Michiriro sato/john zorn's ganryu island on tzadik (from soulseek), an absolutely triffic improv sesh with Zorn at its squealin' hard blowin' best, really working furiously to provide counterpoint to sato's pluckings on his shiamsen. was first released in '84 and all zorn fans must give this one a listen.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 26 October 2003 22:06 (sixteen years ago) link

so classic for his playing on the sax, the couple of masada albs I have heard are lovely and that first painkiller alb ('guts of a virgin') is just psychotic fun.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Sunday, 26 October 2003 22:08 (sixteen years ago) link

There are many I haven't heard, but I really like Naked City, Painkiller, Harras, and the Big Gundown. Kirstallnacht is also excellent. Masada is OK, if a bit restrained for my taste. SPillane didn't do much for me but its worth a listen. Will be consulting this thread for suggestions... Ganryu Island is duly noted. Thanks Julio.

John Bullabaugh (John Bullabaugh), Sunday, 26 October 2003 22:53 (sixteen years ago) link

I listen to "Spy Vs. Spy: A Tribute to Ornette Coleman" almost every morning before class. It's my "get your shit started so you can conquer the world with your inspired madness" soundtrack. I'm not sure what Zorn record I should purchase next.

theodore fogelsanger, Sunday, 26 October 2003 23:03 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...
Bingo!

Jeff LeVine (Jeff LeVine), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 18:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Nice. I'm sure he deserves it. Even though Moonchild seemed a bit too much like a rehash of old ideas.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 18:24 (thirteen years ago) link

Funnily enough, and if you wish, you can hear a live version of 'Moonchild' as well as another BBC commission that I couldn't get into.

xyzzzz__ (jdesouza), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 18:43 (thirteen years ago) link

big congrats to JZ!

Stormy Davis (diamond), Tuesday, 19 September 2006 19:30 (thirteen years ago) link

That's awesome news for Zorn. Now maybe he can afford to release another 500 things a year on Tzadik.

Josh in Chicago (Josh in Chicago), Wednesday, 20 September 2006 04:01 (thirteen years ago) link

YAY! Now maybe Zorn can afford to release a *good* Keiji Haino record.

Am I the only one who thinks Marc Ribot is, in his own way, as annoying a (guitar) wanker as Eddie Van Halen?

Hot Hot Heat (Hot Hot Heat), Wednesday, 20 September 2006 06:36 (thirteen years ago) link

hey! 'new rap' was superb!

C/D? an output that prolific is never going to be consistent, but you have to admire his willingness to experiment and his enthusiasm. plus, classics in his repertoire include most of the naked city albums, ditto painkiller, masada, electric masada, spy vs spy, moonchild, the 50th birthdays and the music romance series.

on the other hand, some of the more recent chamber and classical works I haven't been too keen on, and roughly half of the tzadik releases seem to be less-than essential. plus tzadik released that exceptionally strange melt-banana live in the studio album that made them (them! of all bands!) sound weirdly flat and cardboard-esque, which was quite an achievement.

but, on balance, classic. music would be a much more boring place without him.

mister the guanoman (mister the guanoman), Wednesday, 20 September 2006 06:54 (thirteen years ago) link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQjVOsYgp78&eurl=

^ COLBERT ON ZORN!

rock u like a § (ex machina), Friday, 22 September 2006 19:05 (thirteen years ago) link

saw that earlier today -- wonder how many times Zorn's name, let alone his playing, has been heard on a comedy talk show

Dominique (dleone), Friday, 22 September 2006 20:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Comedians are annoying.

Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Friday, 22 September 2006 20:25 (thirteen years ago) link

Rockist, btw, thanks for talking up the Koby Israelite album on another thread - because of reading that, I gave it a try, and now I've bought it and am quite enjoying it.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 01:39 (thirteen years ago) link

Glad you are enjoying it. I actually find parts of it a little too uneventful (which seems like a funny complaint for a Zorn project). Too much spacious, stretched out sutff, maybe. But that's partly because I really like Koby Israelite's playing, and would like to hear more of it on the album.

Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 02:11 (thirteen years ago) link

You've inspired me to put on the Koby Israelite. His guitar and accordion playing are both great. I'm not sure which I like better. (Also the flute solo on "Nisroc" is fantastic. I'm not sure where it's coming from but I think there's a "Spanish tinge"--reminds me curiously of the vocal part in a song by the Cuban rapper Don Dinero.) I think another thing that bugs me here is that I find it rhythmically unsatisfying. Like a lot of Zorn art rock type stuff I've heard, it seems stuck in an early 80s proggy wedding band groove, if that makes any sense. (Fred Frith's Gravity would be an example of this that I actually happen to like.) To me, the drumming a lot less sophisticated than what's around it, not that I'd want to make any rule against that, but it pulls things down a little for me.

Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 11:05 (thirteen years ago) link

Colbert to Musos and Academics: "Po-Mo is dead, bitches!"

Naive Teen Idol (Naive Teen Idol), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 11:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Zorn is cranking out the Angels series now. Coming up:

Uri Caine: Moloch: Book of Angels Volume 6

Rockist_Scientist (RSLaRue), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 11:56 (thirteen years ago) link

ten months pass...

I've been playing the Koby Israelite (Orobas) again lately. I agree about the awesomeness of the accordion. Lots of great solos on the record. I can see what you mean about the rhythms being somewhat unsatisfying - to me, they don't seem to "groove" quite as much as they should - they seem a bit stiff. Maybe that's what you mean by the "proggy wedding band groove" (great phrase, by the way). I guess that's because the focus is more on having lots of different sections with different tempos and having surprising sudden transitions, so it's harder sometimes to let the groove develop organically. So there's a trade-off going on, but I can see value in both approaches. It's interesting that you found the drumming less interesting than the other instruments, considering that Koby has for most of his career been primarily a drummer, and he only recently picked up the accordion. I guess he picked it up pretty fast.

There's an interesting interview with Koby here:

http://www.adequacy.net/interview.php?InterviewID=69

o. nate, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 16:24 (twelve years ago) link

I've been listening to last year's Malphas, performed by Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier, a great deal this summer. It's lovely, quite energetic, with memorable, unpredictable melodies and tight interplay. I sometimes wonder how much of the credit should go to Zorn and how much to the performers. AFAIK the scoring is quite open.

Also, I recently downloaded Astronome, performed by Patton/Baron/Dunn. It's very different but I liked it on first listen. Heavy noise-rock with vocables from Patton but somehow it seems to come together and be more listenable than some other things in that vein.

Sundar, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 17:03 (twelve years ago) link

AFAIK the scoring is quite open

That's certainly the impression I get from the Koby interview:

DOA: The songs on Orobas are from Zorn's Masada series, which have been described as "improvisational starting points." In what form was the music delivered to you, and how much of it was already clearly defined? There are some killer solos on various instruments throughout the album. Would it be more accurate to say they were your improvisations or lines that were meticulously mapped out by Zorn ahead of time?

KI: Zorn sent me only the melodies/riffs in some tunes, and for some he sent me the chord changes (like in the song “Nisroc,” for example). The solos were improvised by myself or by the trumpet player Sid Gauld, recorder player Stewart Curtis, and bass player Yaron Stavi.

o. nate, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 17:07 (twelve years ago) link

Mark Feldman is amazing on Ned Rothenberg's Inner Diaspora. He's playing a little less outside there, but there's plenty going on. The whole album is terrific (not that it has much to do with Zorn, aside from being on his label).

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 17:11 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, you keep mentioning that one.;) I'm sure I'll like it but I haven't got around to hearing it yet.

BTW that's noise-rock in a proggy, choppy kind of way, not in a droney way.

Sundar, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 17:17 (twelve years ago) link

Yeah, you keep mentioning that one.;)

Even though I have hardly heard anything new this year, I have to have something to hype.

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 22 August 2007 17:47 (twelve years ago) link

Classic, but that Mike Patton connection makes me want to call him a dud.

teflon monkey, Thursday, 23 August 2007 01:30 (twelve years ago) link

why

chaki, Thursday, 23 August 2007 01:31 (twelve years ago) link

DID NOT DESERVER 500,000 PTS!!!

luriqua, Thursday, 23 August 2007 01:39 (twelve years ago) link

MOST OF J Z'S SHIT SOUNDS LIKE ADULT THEMES FOR VOICES. TWO THUMBS DOWN.

luriqua, Thursday, 23 August 2007 01:39 (twelve years ago) link

dud. his voice on his horns is empty and faceless, and along with ken vandermark he's essentially this music's equivalent of the blues brothers: always paying tribute at the expense of developing even a halfway distinctive approach.

Lawrence the Looter, Thursday, 23 August 2007 02:47 (twelve years ago) link

Naked City, Kristallnacht & Cobra live performances are pretty classic. Shots of a duo w/Eye I took in the 90's @ the Knitting Factory:
http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1238/1034906278_ff38e3f7bb.jpg

blunt, Thursday, 23 August 2007 03:21 (twelve years ago) link

four years pass...

Christmas album!

The biggest surprise of the year is John Zorn’s beautiful Christmas album. Zorn has hand picked seven of his favorite Christmas songs, penned two lovely originals and they are performed here in classic Dreamers style with plenty of exciting solos, exotic colors and catchy lyricism. Filled with a joyful holiday spirit, innocence, a touch of nostalgia and a charming lyricism, this is music for all ages that will make you smile with delight from the very first notes. As a special treat, vocalist Mike Patton delivers an intimate and heartfelt rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, making A Dreamers Christmas an instant classic, and an essential album for any contemporary Christmas celebration.

Can't wait for this.

psychedelicatessen (seandalai), Tuesday, 11 October 2011 00:28 (eight years ago) link

Me too. I love the Dreamers stuff

Whiney G. Weingarten, Tuesday, 11 October 2011 01:01 (eight years ago) link

John Zorn is one of the first/formative favorite artists of mine who nonetheless made me, at a certain point, just say 'enough.' So much of his stuff was so well packaged, played (by some of my favorite players) and recorded, and so much was expensive even by domestic standards, let alone as imports, that years ago I just had to give up trying to keep up. I haven't heard anything - let alone thought of - Zorn for longer than I can remember, though I have held on to some of my favorite stuff: Masada, Naked City, the soundtrack series, Big Gundown. Bar Kokhba and The Circle Maker.

(Ha, looking upthread, I think the last time Zorn came to mind was the last time I posted on this thread, five years ago!

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 11 October 2011 01:13 (eight years ago) link

I just got the first four Masada discs (three full-length CDs and a three-song EP). Listened to part of the first one this morning. It was good, but not life-changing or anything, and I didn't hear a huge amount of Ornette (except on the very first track) or anything ultra-Jewish in a shove-it-in-your-face sort of way. Most of it was just adventurous-ish hard bop. I guess I'll make my way through all of it (35 tracks) just 'cause it's there, but honestly my enthusiasm is already fading and I've only listened to about eight pieces.

that's not funny. (unperson), Tuesday, 11 October 2011 02:09 (eight years ago) link

I dunno, I think adventurous-ish hard bop is good enough. I suppose it does get interesting what be does with the various Masada themes in future projects/groups.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 11 October 2011 02:42 (eight years ago) link

three weeks pass...

This Christmas album is well lounge-y...Not sure what I expected but we're clearly in the world of Christmas Cookin'/Ski Surfin'/Charlie Brown rather than Jazz Freakout Christmas.

fun drive (seandalai), Friday, 4 November 2011 19:40 (eight years ago) link

six months pass...

I had a real Zorn-athon today. Listened to The Dreamers albums and then took in Mount Analogue for the first time. I bought my first Zorn Album 'Spillane' when I was 15 years old and 24 years later I still feel like I am a newbie. It was a split South Bank Show with Zorn/Sonic Youth that got my attention. Whenever I get bored of everything on my ipod I just delete it all and stick a load of Zorn/Mingus/Miles/Mozart on it.Every time I go back to Zorn there is always one of his albums that I previously didn't care much for, suddenly becomes my favourite album. The guy's music is an extraordinary goldmine. Now I am listening to Nova Express which is becoming another of my favourites.

Damo Suzuki's Parrot, Monday, 7 May 2012 19:45 (eight years ago) link

Dreamers is his sort of post-Masada outfit, right? Sort of like another iteration of Electric Masada? I've heard their Book 2 disc is great.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 7 May 2012 19:50 (eight years ago) link

Just check out The Gift, The Dreamers,Alhambra Love Songs and o'o and I guarantee you will find a lot to love. I am not great with his personel but I they all have Ribot on guitar and members of Electric Masada.

Damo Suzuki's Parrot, Monday, 7 May 2012 20:13 (eight years ago) link

Electric Masada is a better band than Radiohead

suidavyvan eht nioj (Whiney G. Weingarten), Monday, 7 May 2012 20:28 (eight years ago) link

Someone should listen to everything Zorn has ever been involved in then do an AMA.

pomenitul, Thursday, 25 June 2020 21:42 (two weeks ago) link

Didn't Whiney just do the listening part of that?

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 25 June 2020 21:54 (two weeks ago) link

In case anyone is wondering about your boy, my quarantine/retirement goal is 7 more weeks of coding boot camp + listening to all 266(?) John Zorn albums. I’m on #30 right now and still maintaining sanity. 🎷🚰 🐍 🎲

— Christopher R. Weingarten (@1000TimesYes) March 23, 2020

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 25 June 2020 21:55 (two weeks ago) link

Hah, I wasn't aware. Props, I may join him on his mad endeavour someday.

pomenitul, Thursday, 25 June 2020 21:57 (two weeks ago) link

Wow.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:00 (two weeks ago) link

A much longer yet undoubtedly more pleasant experience than merzboxing.

pomenitul, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:02 (two weeks ago) link

I'm currently listening to #216 of 270

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:11 (two weeks ago) link

What's the longest streak in a row (if any) that has been a real struggle? What has been the longest streak in a row (if any) that has been a real joy?

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:12 (two weeks ago) link

to my ears, Zorn's genre-hopping is mainly about the encounter of cultures writ large (Jewish, American, Japanese, etc.) and/or subcultures (the avant-garde, jazz, hardcore, etc.). Sexuality is by no means absent from these juxtapositions, especially in his earlier, more overtly 'transgressive' works, but foregrounding it is not a priority for him as far as I can tell.

― pomenitul, Tuesday, June 23, 2020 1:49 PM (two days ago)

Very OTM

There's an assertion in a lot of his work that anything can be appropriated as "material". Iirc somw of his game pieces used 'found' composition fragments to this effect. The question of attribution that Sund4r has raised is something I've thought about for sure.

Anyway. I always suspected that The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls is based on Encontro by Projecto III.

xxxp woah

Deflatormouse, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:13 (two weeks ago) link

What's the longest streak in a row (if any) that has been a real struggle? What has been the longest streak in a row (if any) that has been a real joy?

― Josh in Chicago, Thursday, June 25, 2020 6:12 PM (three minutes ago) bookmarkflaglink

You'll have to wait for the AMA!

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:16 (two weeks ago) link

You better make good on your promise. I'll be sharpening my questions.

pomenitul, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:18 (two weeks ago) link

I'm like 80% in (maybe even more since those Parachute sets are multi-CDs), so I don't see myself stopping

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:23 (two weeks ago) link

Are you building a comprehensive power rankings list?

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:25 (two weeks ago) link

One for the AMA then, I reckon the game CDs would have been the biggest slog for me but is there anything in there along the same lines as 'Cynical Hysterie Hour?' I love that CD.

Maresn3st, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:34 (two weeks ago) link

Do you have actual cds for most (all?!) of these? Or is this what people still use slsk for.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:42 (two weeks ago) link

What would the toppermost ones be in a poll, Naked City, Spillane, Masada - Live In Sevilla?

Maresn3st, Thursday, 25 June 2020 22:48 (two weeks ago) link

I'd deffo put Alhambra Love Songs and Nova Express in there, just to be controversial and because I liked them.

calzino, Friday, 26 June 2020 00:25 (two weeks ago) link

I wonder if it's possible not to enjoy any of Zorn's work at all just by virtue of its sheer sprawl.

pomenitul, Friday, 26 June 2020 00:27 (two weeks ago) link

Do you have actual cds for most (all?!) of these? Or is this what people still use slsk for.

― change display name (Jordan), Thursday, June 25, 2020 6:42 PM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

Most Tzadik Zorn stuff up to like 2005 is on Qobuz in CD quality.

I own about 67 Zorn albums on CD

The rest I have to pirate

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Friday, 26 June 2020 02:18 (two weeks ago) link

I obviously would want to put in a fat, well-informed Tzadik order if I ever get employed again

The Mandymoorian (Whiney G. Weingarten), Friday, 26 June 2020 02:48 (two weeks ago) link

re zorn w/out zorn i've been following rjc since the imprint launched...
Deveykus - Pillar Without Mercy
You should have caught them with me at Boot & Saddle, Mordy.

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Friday, 26 June 2020 06:29 (two weeks ago) link

Have to give Zorn credit for putting out orchestral recordings that were out-of-print for years, or not available at all. He's also good at doing special one-off projects with people who don't play very often together (such as Blue Buddha and Anthony Braxton and Cecil Taylor tribute projects, among others).

Another nice Tzadik initiative I recently discovered is a 3-album project with jazz musician/arranger Karl Berger. "In a moment - Music for Piano and Strings" is wonderful. Berger has his own studio and the sound of the room adds something special to the music.

I recently reread the Borah Bergmann interview in The Wire, especially commenting on Zorn's Serious Composer ambitions. I didn't like his "Meditations for Piano" at first but now I think it's great.

Some other personal Tzadik favorites:

All 3 Sephardic Tinge albums
Tim Sparks - Neshamah
Tobias Picker - Invisible Lilacs
VA - Hallelujah, Anyway - Remembering Tom Cora
Eyvind Kang - Yelm Sessions

EvR, Friday, 26 June 2020 07:26 (two weeks ago) link

I thought of the kitchen-less John Zorn during covid lockdown. I hope he managed to eat.

Duke, Friday, 26 June 2020 19:04 (two weeks ago) link

I just went back to this 2015 email interview I did with all 3 members of Simulacrum. It goes into a lot of detail about how they work in the studio, how much rehearsal they have when Zorn writes new music, what's actually on the page, etc., etc., so read that if you want.

but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 26 June 2020 22:42 (two weeks ago) link

Zorn was a big influence on my listening in the '90s. I visited NYC in the summer of '94 with my parents and I dragged them to a Masada show at the Knitting Factory (that was before it moved to Soho, when it was still a fairly modest basement kind of space in the East Village). Dave Douglas wasn't there, instead Marc Ribot filled in on guitar. We were sitting at a table probably 10 feet from the "stage". It was completely amazing, but my parents were not impressed by Zorn's "smirking asshole" side (which he definitely had [has?]). At one point he cussed out the sound person because he wasn't happy about something about the sound. All that prolific hard-to-find output was incredibly tantalizing in those pre-streaming days, when visiting record stores was a kind of pilgrimage. In some ways maybe it was about sheer abundance for me, unfathomable mysteries, ars longa vita brevis and all that. Later I moved to NYC and caught a lot of shows with Zorn and related projects at the Soho Knitting Factory, Tonic, etc. I remember one show he did with Mike Patton as the Horse-Cock Kids at the Knitting Factory where they came on like an hour late, played for 15 minutes and left the stage. The lights came up. People booed. That was it. He definitely was capable of being an asshole. But somehow you knew that he was being an asshole with absolute sincerity. You believed that short abbreviated set was exactly what he wanted to present that night, even if you were kind of pissed about the price of the ticket.

o. nate, Sunday, 28 June 2020 00:50 (one week ago) link

I remember one show he did with Mike Patton as the Horse-Cock Kids at the Knitting Factory where they came on like an hour late, played for 15 minutes and left the stage. The lights came up. People booed. That was it.

A friend of mine (dead now) was at that show and said someone chased them to the dressing room afterward shouting "What the fuck?"

but also fuck you (unperson), Sunday, 28 June 2020 01:16 (one week ago) link

All that prolific hard-to-find output was incredibly tantalizing in those pre-streaming days, when visiting record stores was a kind of pilgrimage. In some ways maybe it was about sheer abundance for me, unfathomable mysteries, ars longa vita brevis and all that.

Same. Truly cant remember how i first discovered Zorn as a kid growing up in the hinterlands of the midwest, but I think it may literally have been from just being in the local punk record store and seeing the hugely well-stocked section of Zorn CDs and thinking "who is this person I've never heard of with 45 albums?" And every time I got one it sounded completely different from all the others.

turn the jawhatthefuckever on (One Eye Open), Sunday, 28 June 2020 20:50 (one week ago) link

I think I learned about him through a few vectors. One, probably reviewed in Option magazine. Two, Naked City was on Nonesuch, which I was gravitating to for cool stuff like Steve Reich. Three, "Torture Garden" was on Shimmy Disc, and my hip friend in 9th grade was really into Kramer and stuff like B.A.L.L., which were somewhere in the same noise/lo-fi realm as Sonic Youth or Amphetamine Reptile (as I remember it). And then there was Eye and the Japanese noise scene, which was hiply exotic in 1989. I know I would get excited whenever we went up to New York from Philly and I could find all those Avant imports and stuff, or when I was on tour in a band and I'd stop in some used record store somewhere and find some Tzadik thing I had never heard for $5 or whatever.

I'm a little less clear how I glommed on to Laswell, though. Maybe when the Axiom label was started and someone lent me Bahia Black's "Ritual Beating System," calling it one of the coolest records ever made (it was)? That was 1992. Dunno if I knew of Last Exit, say, or Material, though I did have "The Third Power" around the same time, and was into the Golden Palominos, so who knows.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:11 (one week ago) link

For me it was when The South Bank Show (in the UK) broadcast Charles Atlas' documentary 'Put Blood In The Music', then my mates and I all immediately ran out and bought Spillane and made the leap from Sonic Youth to Zorn, Branca, Chatham etc.

Maresn3st, Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:25 (one week ago) link

In the late 80s Nonesuch was part of Elektra so they sent promos out to record stores (through the distributor, I guess?). A friend of mine's family owned a record store and they got a promo CD of the Naked City album and gave it to me. That was my in. Then I bought the first Painkiller record because it was on Earache and I was already listening to Godflesh and Napalm Death.

but also fuck you (unperson), Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:28 (one week ago) link

Zorn was definitely at the intersection of a lot of contemporary composers, noise, metal, and jazz. Didn't have to go far in any one direction to find some really cool stuff. Likewise, didn't have to go far from that cool stuff to hit Zorn.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:45 (one week ago) link

my hip friend in 9th grade was really into Kramer and stuff like B.A.L.L.

That’s a pretty hip 9th-grader!

Pat McGroin (morrisp), Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:47 (one week ago) link

He was pretty hip!

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:49 (one week ago) link

In the late ‘90s, I saw the actor Michael Richards at the Knitting Factory – he was seeing a show, and looking around shiftily in a “recognize/don’t recognize me” way – and I thought it was so funny to see that particular “Kramer” there... but I didn’t know anyone who would really appreciate the joke.

Pat McGroin (morrisp), Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:56 (one week ago) link

I think if Zorn had been born a few decades later he would definitely be making electronic music and compulsively releasing new albums on Bandcamp every week, instead he's had to build this whole infrastructure of musicians, scoring, recording, cds, etc to scratch his itch.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 30 June 2020 14:38 (one week ago) link

RE: Naked City

Zorn produced and arranged "Hard Plains Drifter" on Bill Frisell's "Before We Were Born" album. It sounds like a Naked City piece (it was done at the same time period the NC studio albums were done). In the "Bill Frisell: An Anthology" songbook, there's a 4-page hand-written transcription of the piece made by Frisell, containing 38 different sections. This was done to be able to play it live. It looks similar to the transcriptions I´ve seen posted in this thread. It's a nice book with lots of funny drawings (I didn't know Frisell could do that too).

EvR, Saturday, 4 July 2020 07:52 (one week ago) link

TIL that Joey Baron plays drums on David Bowie - Outside

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Sunday, 5 July 2020 20:57 (six days ago) link

Also on Laurie Anderson's Bright Red, which also was produced by Brian Eno and came out the year before. That could be what he's doing there. I just noticed how many downtown/ Zorn people are on her Strange Angels album, too.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 5 July 2020 21:27 (six days ago) link

Now Youtube just keeps serving me up latter day John Zorn albums, which I'm ok with. This particular salsa (Masalsada?) track is pretty sick:
https://youtu.be/VlTqNwb0veg?t=522

change display name (Jordan), Monday, 6 July 2020 21:28 (five days ago) link

Been listening to The Big Gundown after hearing the news of Morricone's death - it's not on Spotify in the U.S. but it's here if you want to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7bIhV-Zckk

What a great album, not only my favorite Zorn album but probably my favorite jazz of the past 40 years.

birdistheword, Tuesday, 7 July 2020 21:49 (four days ago) link

wow, yeah. the first time i heard this it didn't really click for some reason. but hearing it now, it sounds so very good.

budo jeru, Tuesday, 7 July 2020 22:06 (four days ago) link

i think this album was the first I learned of Vernon Reid's pre-Living Colour jazz days.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 7 July 2020 22:09 (four days ago) link

Zorn's tribute to Morricone, a public post: https://www.facebook.com/TzadikLabel/posts/3433097923389983

Irritable Baal (WmC), Thursday, 9 July 2020 13:41 (two days ago) link

Hey, does anyone know what rap song sampled the lick at 29:00? It's driving me crazy (and I'm not sure if it samples the Zorn record or the Morricone original, but that particular moment really rung a bell). I thought it was something off Aesop Rock's Labor Days but not finding.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 9 July 2020 14:23 (two days ago) link

dare we compare the five notes of his famous ‘coyote call’ in The Good Bad and The Ugly with the four opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony?

Zorn otm, tbh.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 July 2020 14:26 (two days ago) link

xpost I assume someone sampled the original. Seems like something you'd hear from Def Jux, yeah, or Dan the Automator.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 9 July 2020 14:27 (two days ago) link

Gotta say, it actually sounds like it sampled the Zorn version! The particular attack of the glockenspiel & flute together, etc.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 9 July 2020 14:33 (two days ago) link


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