Search and Destroy : John Zorn

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Don't know anything about this guy, but he's got a pretty formidable discography. Where should I start?

Manny Parsons, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

there have been a few threads w/ a lot of debate on them. ILM search will sort it out for you.

but if you want a start I suggest 'Harras': a trio w/derek bailey (guitar) and william parker on bass. Zorn's and all participants playing on it is pretty phenomenal.

Julio Desouza, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

naked city - toture garden and selftitled on elektra only - the rest distinctly ropey (haven't heard new live album). harras - is indeed great - as is "the art of memory" with fred frith on tzadik, and "yankees" with george lewis and derek bailey. i still love "spillane" actually as "postmodern"(yeuch!) as it is - it is still everything a noir soundtrack should be - wish fulfilment style.

bob snoom, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

My vote is for _Naked City_, which features perhaps one of the most amazing lineups ever (Frisell, Baron, Frith, Horvitz, and Zorn). I can't imagine anyone hearing its opener, "Batman," for the first time and not being completely blown away.

Ernest, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

my favorite few are naked city, torture garden, spy vs. spy, and the ennio morricone tribute....the masada group was awesome live....and the 2cd they put out was good...

not sure where else i'd go....his fingers have been in so many pots, i've lost interest in trying to keep an eye on them... m.

msp, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Zorn is many things, but he is rarely boring. Lots of gems in the catalog. Naked City, Masada, "The Big Gundown", and "Art of Memory" are a few that come to mind. I have less of his more difficult stuff, like the early Parachute Years game pieces and the classical work, but even of that, what I've heard has been at least interesting.

o. nate, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

(haven't heard new live album)

I like it (_Live at the Knitting Factory_), but it's probably not essential since it greatly overlaps _Naked City_. Since the band read from sheet music, I expected near carbon copies of the album tracks. Fortunately, many of the drum fills and guitar licks are played differently.

Ernest, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Four or five years sufficiently removed from my Zorn period, and wouldn't you know, he appears to be in another very creative time -- if relatively on the soft side -- check his music for children/romance series, new classical things, and I hear IAO is great.

I think Masada kind of bled me dry of being a fanatic, even though I think it is ultimately his most rewarding stuff. "Kristallnacht" is amazingly rich, but also pretty grating. Of course the Naked City stuff is his tombstone from where I stand, but "Grand Guignol" is a fantastic album, and if there is justice, "Absinthe" will go down as a classic.

If I could one Zorn-related wish, it would be to stop having the same circle of players performing his music all the time. I know what Marc Ribot and Cyro Baptista (fine as they are) are going to do with a chamber-klezmer piece, and maybe hearing Nels Cline and Russell Simins having a go would be nice. I know Zorn likes to stick with his pals, but with all the other great classical composers (and I believe Zorn will go down as a classical, rather than jazz or avant- rock composer), they got extended reps from having their music played by ensembles from all over.

dleone, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

If your idea of a good time is firing off machine guns while horseback riding,I recommend Naked City,especially "Torture Garden". If your tastes are little less esoteric but out there try "Spy vs Spy" where Zorn et al perform the music of Ornette Coleman. If you like your Westerns with Spaghetti, go for "The Big Gundown".

brg30, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

and I believe Zorn will go down as a classical, rather than jazz or avant- rock composer

That's an interesting hypothesis. I know that Zorn has managed to acquire some impressive credentials in the classical world (e.g., commissions from "Kronos Quartet, the New York Philharmonic, EOS Orchestra, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Bayerischer Staatsoper, WDR Orchestra Köln and American pianist Stephen Drury" according to his official bio), and his works are being performed, so it certainly seems within the realm of possibility that his classical reputation will continue to grow. On the other hand, perhaps he's just as likely to go down as a kind of Gertrude Stein figure, i.e., as the spiritual center, figurehead, and den mother of a particular artistic "scene" - I'm thinking of his role in the "downtown" music crowd and the Tzadik label, in particular.

o. nate, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I know that Zorn has managed to acquire some impressive credentials in the classical world

I'm thinking more along the lines of the notion of what classical music sounds like becoming malleable enough that Zorn's music fits in the canon easily. In fact, I would go so far as to say *most* avant- garde music, be it rock, jazz, electronic or whatever, would be assimilated into the classical canon after a time. I won't start a whole treatise on my views on experimental music, but I think consciously avant-garde composers -- those specifically trying to do something new, especially formally or technically -- have a lot in common with traditional classical composers who were also interested in playing with forms, but not necessarily with blaring saxophones or hardcore beats.

dleone, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''In fact, I would go so far as to say *most* avant- garde music, be it rock, jazz, electronic or whatever, would be assimilated into the classical canon after a time.''

if rock or jazz become classicised that would be depressing...actually, are you saying that it will all just become a wing of classical, or just 'respectable' in the way classical music is. if the latter is the case, the rock and jazz have attained a level of respectability because it sells millions of recs (that's how the system works: it's all tied in to how much money it makes i suppose).

Julio desouza, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''I know Zorn likes to stick with his pals, but with all the other great classical composers (and I believe Zorn will go down as a classical, rather than jazz or avant- rock composer), they got extended reps from having their music played by ensembles from all over.''

I don't! he does mess around with FAR too many forms to really be categorised. His dabblings (actually more than that) in hardcore would make sure of that. A large part of his work would alienate rock fans (there's not enough guitars around anyway). And jazz, well there's too much hardcore and improv for that. I'd like to think of him as an 'anti-jazz/anti-classical' composer that is also a great improviser. So in other words you can't easily categorise him. Thank goodness for that.

Julio Desouza, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I've answered this on other threads, but I heartily endorse _News for Lulu_--has anybody else here heard this one? do you love it like I do?

Douglas, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I'm thinking more along the lines of the notion of what classical music sounds like becoming malleable enough that Zorn's music fits in the canon easily

I see some evidence of this happening already. Are you familiar with Bang on a Can? It's a collective formed by three composers - Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe - that puts on various concerts, commissions works, and has its own in-house ensemble, the Bang on a Can All-Stars. The All-Stars have unconventional instrumentation for a classical ensemble: cello, piano, double-bass, percussion, clarinet, and electric guitar are the primary instruments. Through their commissions, they are creating a classical repertoire for this idiosyncratic ensemble, and many of the pieces that they play blend the lines between avant-rock and classical. Among the All-Stars recordings are a re-recording of Brian Eno's "Music for Airports" arranged by the Gordon, Lang, and Wolfe, as well as pieces such as Terry Riley's "In C" which come from the more established classical realm. I think that the day will come when it's no longer surprising to see an electric guitar on stage with a classical ensemble.

o. nate, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

that sounds like a press release, dude. but I do like the airports album.

the canon / standard repertoire is vast and immovable. seems like it will take decades, at least, to really put a dent in it, despite bang on a can et al.

Josh, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

that sounds like a press release, dude

I'm not trying to - honest. It's my particular curse to instinctively sound like a PR flack.

o. nate, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

at least you've got a marketable skill

Josh, Friday, 19 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"the art of memory" it's on incus - not tzadik.nnnng. i said that. and yes indeed on the spy vs spy album they rescue ornette's "space church" by doing it the way it should've been done in the first place.

bob snoom, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

i never thought i'd see Charles Wuorinen music (re)released on Tzadik. that's proof to me that the label will be spreading wider and that's taking some music to people who like to hang around scenes, labels, central gurus or whatever-you-want-to-call-it. that's recent, but an older rehash of some Harry Partch music and then the Jerry Hunt stuff were all good signs too. so it's bigger than nyc, bigger than mere cronies and it's cheap (cf: avant) (but hey don't forget music&arts, new albion and especially cri, to name a few off the top)

and i think musicians' tastes will usualy be at least the equal of their own work

george gosset, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''the art of memory" it's on incus''

I second that. But also zorn's duo w/ eugene chadbourne. It's called 'in memory of nikkin akane' i think. It's on incus as well so just look at the webpage.

it's wonderful the things that he can do with his instrument to sound like donald duck!

Julio Desouza, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

actually, are you saying that it will all just become a wing of classical, or just 'respectable' in the way classical music is

I'm saying that it's possible one day a classical music concert might consist of a Haydn violin concerto, Wagner overture and a suite of pieces by Naked City. Obviously, that kind of assimilation would take time.

dleone, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I don't! he does mess around with FAR too many forms to really be categorised.

Today, it's hard to categorize Zorn (although, is it really? -- Naked City wasn't really a *hardcore* band, they were an experimental music ensemble that played a whole range of things -- and did they ever actually play hardcore, like Bad Brains style hardcore?), but then again, I doubt anyone called Bach a "Baroque composer" in his day. But you know, it's all just guesswork for now.

dleone, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I see some evidence of this happening already.

I am too, just not a massively popular scale yet. Actually Zorn was commissioned to write a piece for the New York Phil called "Orchestral Variations", but it has not been released yet.

Furthermore, check this: there was an album a few years ago featuring Chris Cutler, Fred Frith and others, with music written by a classical composer named Steven Tickmayer. Supposedly, he had never written for a rock band before, and was trying his hand (with some admittedly sympathetic souls in classical-brains Cutler and Frith). What did it sound like? Avant-prog. The future is here, friends, it just isn't cool to like it yet. ;)

dleone, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

naked city were not a hardcore band but that first alb shows that Zorn was listening to hardcore/trash metal that's for sure.

'I'm saying that it's possible one day a classical music concert might consist of a Haydn violin concerto, Wagner overture and a suite of pieces by Naked City. Obviously, that kind of assimilation would take time.''

I would actually think that classical music with its orchestras (as it is now) might actually fade w/time (at least i hope so!).

the prolem with naked city is that (only heard the first alb) is that the melodies he writes for them really doesn't hold very well. That would be the problem if he was to be assimilated into some sort of canon.

Julio Desouza, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I would actually think that classical music with its orchestras (as it is now) might actually fade w/time (at least i hope so!).

oh no, i think that would be a sad rejection of too much good music, from both the past and nowdays

what i like about where tzadik is going is that it isn't afraid to release all sorts of different music, hopefully further loosening the institutional almost veto style control that has stifled and held back music that uses orchestras or chamber outfits

hopefully there can be more mix and match band/instrumentalist combinations, of which zorn has been one of the pioneers with various of his formats

george gosset, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Hello.

Thank you for asking that question, indeed John Zorn is a puzzling and engimatic musician, whose discography is just as puzzling as a dali painting.

So where do you start?

Well, the best place to start with Zorn is his Masada projects, especially his band with Dave Douglas.

The best Masada albums are the live recordings either 'Live in Sevilla 2000' or 'Live at Tonic 2001'

Next is Naked City, the debut album is the best, simply entitled 'Naked City', the latest album released this year 'Naked City Live....' is a good illustration of the live experience of Naked City, the other records are interesting, but a little crazy, (with aweful cover art). Of the other discs 'Grand Guigol' is the best, the decapitated head on the cover however might put you off buying it, it put me off, although I have most of the album on mp3. The first 6 tacks are actuallyrather ambient! Naked City cover classical composers Debussy, Messiaen, Scaribin and others. The other tracks are thrash metal, torture music starring Y. Eye from The Boredoms on tortured vocal.

On to actual Zorn releases.

My first recommendation is a rather obscure record.

It is John Zorn's 'The Bribe', it's a mafia soundtrack, a follow up to 'Goddard/Spillane'. Yet it is a very different album, it's actually very listenable throughout unlike some parts of Spillane. The music is very intrenched with an almost lounge music atmosphere, with a spiked edge, that is the John Zorn edge.

My second recommendation is what has become John Zorn's most celebrated albums. 'The Big Gundown', although I prefer other albums above this one, it has received much acclaim, and it would be a sin not to include it in my recommendations list. It is a good album, but I prefer some others over it.

My third recommendation is a very serious album, that John Zorn doesn't actually play on, he is only the composer. It's 'Kristallnacht', 'The night of broken glass', the night in which the Nazis, vandalised, and assaulted jewish people and their property. The music mimics this brutal action by the Nazis. The music perfectly illustrates the night. Hitler's voice is sampled in the brilliant Jewish folk song 'Shtetl', and tortured strings full the album, and than there is 'Never Again' 11.41 of pure noice and sound effects, Zorn warns in the liner notes, that the tune can lead to permanent deafness, nausua and a varity of other effects, it's best to skip this song, but it still serves as a reminder of the tradgic events that occured that fateful night.

The next recommendation is one of Zorn's most melodic albums of all time. The album is 'News for Lulu' a tribute to the Blue Note Hard Bop musicians of the 60s. Heavily featured are the compostions of Sonny Clark, Freddie Redd, Hank Mobley and others, it is an unusual trio of Zorn - Alto Sax, George Lewis - Trombone, Bill Frisell - Guitar. The tracks are extremely compact, turning 10 minute hard bop blow outs, to 2 minute tracks. However, this is a more of a tribute than 'Spy vs Spy', there isn't any hardcore playing here, it's very restained.

Finally my last recommendation is 'Spy vs Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman'. This album is an extreme hardcore jazz album, turning Ornette Coleman into thrash metal jazz. With 20 times the punch as Ornette Coleman's original versions, this is certainly a legendary and unique tribute album, that is essential for any John Zorn collector.

That's it for now good luck.

Thanks, Geoff

Geoffrey Balasoglou, Saturday, 20 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''oh no, i think that would be a sad rejection of too much good music, from both the past and nowdays''

there is a conservative trend in classical which can be irritating. There is good music there (as in most places) but i would like more risks to be taken, that's all.

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

the prolem with naked city is that (only heard the first alb) is that the melodies he writes for them really doesn't hold very well.

Julio, you should check out the other records, because except for Radio (which is kind of a rehash of the first record), they all have individual identities. Especially, look for Grand Guignol, which does have some excellent hardcore-style pieces, as well as a few incredible classical covers. Naked City's version of Scriabin's third piano preludes is definitive. Also, look for Absinthe, which is Zorn's best ambient record, and features some pretty spooky music dedicated to Olivier Messiaen.

And I don't really think Zorn's melodic sense (or lack of) is going to affect his position in the classical world. If so, then a lot of composers would have trouble (Stockhausen, Reich, Cage, et al).

dleone, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

''And I don't really think Zorn's melodic sense (or lack of) is going to affect his position in the classical world. If so, then a lot of composers would have trouble (Stockhausen, Reich, Cage, et al).''

but you said previously that a classical music recital would contain Zorn w/ say wagner or Haydyn. i don't know abt their melodic sense but surely cage and stockhausen are on one end of classical, whereas wagner and haydyn are on another. I think if improvisation goes back to classical in a big way then maybe we could see Zorn on a bill but it wouldn't be in either group (hard to see whee exactly he would be at still).

I take note of the other naked city stuff and will try and track it down over the coming months. cheers.

Julio Desouza, Sunday, 21 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

but you said previously that a classical music recital would contain Zorn w/ say wagner or Haydyn.

I was just trying to think up a generic classical bill.

dleone, Monday, 22 July 2002 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

one month passes...
There's a very casual, entertaining, and interesting interview with Zorn in Bomb Magazine, by Michael Goldberg, online here.

Here's a nice excerpt:
======
mg: I don't know about music, but I do know that in the late forties, early fifties, making paintings was a viable revolutionary concept in the sense that one felt that you could change the world. That's what late Modernism was all about, you felt you were doing something important.
jz: You don't feel that anymore?

mg: Well, I think it was Lenin who said that freedom is the recognition of necessity. And I think that we, as artists, have that same kind of thing. We pare down to what's necessary to us.
jz: We've made a lot of sacrifices to live the life that we live.

mg: Exactly.
jz: And people don't appreciate that. They think we're out here balling, you know? It's not that way. It's hard work, and you get isolated. And you get distracted by the normal human need for companionship and love and understanding and appreciation. Those are distractions from doing the work, I feel. That's why I can't read magazines or newspapers, I don't look at TV. I try to focus on what's important, which is really the work itself. Making sure that you do the best possible thing in the purest possible way with the most imagination and technique and honesty that you can pull together.
======

Wow...companionship and love and understanding and appreciation are "distractions from doing the work." Strange, but I think I see where he's coming from.

Anyway, I recently bought Xu Feng, a game piece written in 1985 and performed in 2000 - outstanding. Very dynamic and exciting - 2 drummers, 2 guitarists, and 2 electronics guys. In the liner notes, Zorn says that the piece may be performed with 6 drummers (!!). Are his other game piece releases this good? I heard some of the Knitting Factory Cobra disc, and it didn't really grab me.

Ernest P., Monday, 16 September 2002 23:16 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Xu Feng sounds promising...I'm really intersted in hearing his trio with Ikue Mori and Mike Patton (too lazy to look up the name).

Jordan (Jordan), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:38 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

That limited edition thing may already be gone; it's not on the Tzadik website anymore.

That was a good interview with Zorn, and probably one of the longer ones available anywhere. He did another great one where he speaks more about his background in a William Duckworth book called Talking Music. That book also features interviews with Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson, Pauline Oliveros and John Cage. Look for it!

dleone (dleone), Tuesday, 17 September 2002 17:50 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I did a little probing on the Tzadik site, and here's the page for Hemophiliac (the Zorn/Ikue Mori/Mike Patton limited edition thingie): http://www.tzadik.com/CDSections/KeySeries/hemophiliac.html

I don't know if it's still available, but the online shopping cart lets you select it.

That book sounds interesting - sounds like he hooked up with half of the Nonesuch roster.

I've been debating getting the Big Gundown reissue just for the bonus songs - I heard a clip of "The Sicilian Clan" (not the Naked City version), and it sounded great (there's even a little jew's harp in it). Worth buying again?

Ernest P., Tuesday, 17 September 2002 19:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

ten years pass...

Ipos: Book of Angels Volume 14 = blowing my shell right now.

Damo Suzuki's Parrot, Wednesday, 7 August 2013 23:27 (four years ago) Permalink

The presence of "Volume 14" in the title pretty much sums up why I stopped trying to keep up with Zorn about a decade ago. I mean, I know I'm missing lots of good stuff, but there are only so many hours in the day, days in the year, dollars in the bank ...

Josh in Chicago, Wednesday, 7 August 2013 23:46 (four years ago) Permalink

for real

j., Thursday, 8 August 2013 00:22 (four years ago) Permalink

i love the Dreamers stuff so much

yung humas (Whiney G. Weingarten), Thursday, 8 August 2013 00:24 (four years ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

The Medeski/Wollesen piano/vibraphone work on Dreamachines is incredible, not another Dreamers recording but the 3rd of part his Burroughs series with that band and some of it is very Dreamers like in style.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd4LLjepX2I

Damo Suzuki's Parrot, Friday, 23 August 2013 21:43 (four years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

The Big Gundown still sounds so rad + essential, can never get bored of it!

calzino, Monday, 7 August 2017 11:52 (four months ago) Permalink


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