The Squid's Ear
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Sidsel Endresen / Jan Bang: Hum (Confront)

Using sampler, dictaphone, and voice, the duo of Sidsel Endresen and Jan Bang improvise and interact to create unorthodox hybrids of fractured electronics and articulated word, as edgy and engaging as it is unusual, captured live at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, in Oslo, Norway in 2016, a great followup to Bang's "And Poppies From Kandahar" Samadhi album. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps and rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out [VINYL 2 LPs] (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps and rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Small Cruel Party: ἡσυχασμός (complacency) [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

The first new release from William Key Ransone's Small Cruel Party, two 12 minute pieces, the first a work of subtle noise that ebbs and flows in subliminal ways; the second a work of strong tone combinations with distracted percussion and unusual tonal interruptions, a unique album of atmosphere and tension. ... Click to View


Charles Noyes K. / Owen Maercks w/ Henry Kaiser / Greg Goodman: Free Mammals [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

A great example of open-minded West Coast free improvisation around the late 70s from the quartet of Charles K. Noyes on percussion & saxophone, Owen Maercks on guitar, Henry Kaiser on guitar, and Greg Goodman on piano & percussion, side A from a live concert in Berkeley recorded by guitarist Henry Kaiser, side B from sutdio sessions in San Francisco. ... Click to View


Toshimaru Nakamura : Re-Verbed (No-Input Mixing Board 9) (Room40)

Tokyo-based electronics artist Toshimaru Nakamura's 9th album of No-Input Mixing Board music, elucidating sound from the mixing board without any audio sources, showing the amazing evolution of his approach as he turns this "empty" "instrument" into an amazing source of rhythmic and assertive sound that's both surprising and wonderfully musical. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano: The Hated Music [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

Gary Panter's artwork is updated and the format is vinyl this time for this welcome reissue of the 2000 Ecstatic Yod CD from the now long-running duo of tenor & alto saxophonist Paul Flaherty and drummer Chris Corsano, a superb free jazz album of great invention and seriously deep playing, from hard attacks to introspective musing, really impressive! ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Sebastien Beliah : Nocturnes (Umlaut Records)

Sebastien Beliah is a Paris-based double bass player, a member of Umlaut Big Band, The Coquettes, Un poco loco, &c., here ina solo album of bass noir, dark and resonant tones evoked through strong bowing, finding harmonics between the strings and from the instrument itself, creating beautiful passages in a mirage of engulfing deep timbre. ... Click to View


Musaeum Clausum: Musaeum Clausum (Umlaut Records)

Musaeum Clausum is a French-German trio that features Louis Laurain on cornet (Die Hochstapler, Umlaut Big band, ONCEIM), Hannes Lingens on drums (Obliq, Konzert Minimal) and Sebastien Beliah on bass.(Un Poco Loco, Ensemble Hodos, Umlaut Big Band), in an album of patiently developing improvisation giving each player freedom and flexibility within a composed framework. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Axel Dorner / Jason Kahn: For Berner Munster (Confront)

The pairing of German trumpeter Axel Dorner, and NY-born experimental artist Jason Kahn living and performing in Zurich, brings the tradition of avant free jazz and nonidiomatic improvisation into an unusual merging of techniques and approaches, each applying their advanced virtuosity to this intense concert, recorded during Hamburg's Zoom In festival, 2017. ... Click to View


Douglas Benford : For Now (Confront)

Sprawl Imprint label leader Douglas Benford developed this fascinatingly layered composition with a diverse set of instruments, objects, and field recordings from recordings made at the Stockholm Music Museum and at performances in Lithuania and England between 2009 and 2017, assembling them to create this exceptional odyssey of concrete, ambient and ethnic sources. ... Click to View


Isotope Ensemble: Barium (Creative Sources)

Large scale improvisation of the most subtle nature from Portugal's Isotope Ensemble led by Ernesto Rodrigues, 17 musicians slowly unfolding this beautiful work of consonance and dissonance dedicated to element atomic number 56, recording live at O'Culto da Ajuda in Lisbon with instrumentation including acoustic reeds, strings, brass and percussion, and electronics. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Andrew Lafkas / Bryan Eubanks: 0 Minutes And 0 Seconds (Creative Sources)

Lisbon-based viola player Ernesto Rodrigues joins three Berlin-based musicians--cellist Guilherme Rodrigues, with double bassist Andrew Lafkas and electronics artist Bryan Eubanks--merging the lowercase approaches of Creative Sources groupings with experimental electronics for a 5-part album that ranges from the subliminal to assertive tones and momentum. ... Click to View


Sergio Merce: Three Dimensions Of The Spirit (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Conservatory trained Argentinian saxophonist Sergio Merce uses a prepared tenor sax and a microtonal sax to create rich harmonics and slowly moving tonal works, layering aberrant and alluring tones in restrained configurations that allow each stratum of sound to be distinguished and appreciated, creating mesmerizing compositions of elusive and illusionistic sound. ... Click to View


Beuger.Boon.Susam: (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Pianist and composer Dante Boon performs his own work "Years, Numbers", alongside Antoine Beuguer's "Pour Etre Seul(e), Sans Reserve" and Taylan Susam's "Tombeau", and Bueger's "Nov. (piano)", four works of graceful and introspective beauty using minimal approaches to tone, chord, or spaciousness, recorded live at University Of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2014. ... Click to View


Cyril Bondi / d'Incise: Kirari-Kirari (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

A sextet of Cyril Bondi (vibraphone), d'Incise (metallic objects), Magnus Granberg (piano), Anna Lindal (Baroque violin), Anna-Kaisa Meklin (viola de gamba) and Christoph Schiller (spinet) perform two works composed by Bondi and d'Incise, recorded by Simon Reynell of Another Timbre, works of repetition with distinct variations that evolve as each piece progresses. ... Click to View


Johan Lindvall: Giraffe (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Fourteen pieces for solo guitar from Norwegian composer Johan Lindvall, sparse yet warmly spaced pieces that focus on the individual notes or simple chords in intimate ways, meditative yet warmly evocative; two sections are presented in multiple movements, with "five songs for voice and guitar", Rasten singing words written by Marianne Moore; lovely and refined. ... Click to View


Stephen Cornford : Battery Acid [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

UK Sound experimenter Stephen Cornford took the bare wires of two microphone cables and submerged them in the cavaties of a large but run-down car battery, plugged it into a mixer, panned hard left and right and recorded, adding a 12 Volt trickle charger to the external terminals of the battery and made a second recording, the results heard here unchanged. ... Click to View


The Rita: Vice Baron [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

The Rita, the duo of Sam McKinlay and Arlie Doyle, made samples from 1930's pre-code exploitation films, focusing on the sounds made in the changing rooms of female prostitutes depicted in those films, and manipulated the sounds to make these two tracks, inscrutably crunchy and static filled manifestoes with a sense of age and decay from the period captured. ... Click to View


Golia / Kaiser / Moses / Smith / Walter: Astral Plane Crash (Balance Point Acoustics)

The West Coast Plane Crash trio of Henry Kaiser (guitar), Damon Smith (bass) and Weasel Walter (drums) is extended with Vinny Golia (reeds) and Ra-Kalam Bob Moses (drums) for two absolutely impressive improvisations that show forcefully restrained and coherent playing that follows an intuitive narrative only possible from such skilled and virtuosic musicians. ... Click to View


Pascal Niggenkemper : Sound Within Sound | Wuppertal Diary [2 CDs] (Fitschgetau)

Adventurous double bassist Pascal Niggenkemper was artist in residence at Wuppertal in the fall of 2017, presenting concerts with a diverse set of masterful improvisers from Europe and the US, excerpts of which are meticulously programmed in this 2-CD collection, organized by artistic endeavor and intent, from the spacious/introspective to wildly lively encounters; recommended. ... Click to View


Mahobin (Fujii / Anker / Tamura / Mori): Live at Big Apple in Kobe (Libra)

Continuing the celebration of pianist Satoko Fujii's 60th birtday by releasing one CD each month, this quartet brings an excellent set of electroacoustic improvisation to the collection in a quartet with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, New York saxophonist Lotte Anker, and New York electronic artist and former DNA drummer Ikue Mori, performing live at Tokyo's Big Apple in 2018. ... Click to View


Ahmed (Pat Thomas / Antonin Gerbal / Joel Grip / Seymour Wright): New Jazz Imagination [VINYL] (Umlaut Records)

Ahmed Abdul-Malik was a jazz bassist and oud player, a member of bands led by Art Blakey, Earl Hines, Randy Weston, and Thelonious Monk and whose own albums fused aspects of Arabic and East African musics; the band Ahmed of Pat Thomas, Joel Grip, Antonin Gerbal, and Seymour Wright revisit and rethink his compositions and influence, as heard in this massive and elucidating recording. ... Click to View


Trio La Soustraction des Fleurs (Vrod / Aurier / Lemetre): Airs de Moyenne Montagne [2 CDS] (Umlaut Records)

Combining folk and ethnic rhythms in traditional popular forms, the Trio La Soustraction of des Fleurs of Jean-Francois Vrod on violin & voice, Frederic Aurier on violin & voice, and Sylvain Lemetre on zarb & voice focuses on the music of the mountains of the Massif Central, melodic music with unique timbres, forms, pre-texts, and a richly complex set of musical objects. ... Click to View


Tatsuya Nakatani : Yama Yaki (Nakatani-Kobo)

Recorded in his home state of New Mexico, Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani presents a 46 minute continuous improvisation of acoustic percussion, a perfect reflection of his solo performance sets, Nakatani alternating between extremely rapid interactions and reflective and atmospheric environments, always creative and quick-witted through staggeringly impressive playing. ... Click to View


Mark Weaver / Tatsuya Nakatani: Weaver Nakatani (Nakatani-Kobo)

A live recording of a 2018 improvisation between Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and tuba & dijeridu performer and THE ROOST Creative Music Series concert organizer Mark Weaver, through eleven concise dialogs illustrating the unique and diverse approaches of each player, finding middle ground through unusual technique and compatible creative drive. ... Click to View


The Bertch Quartet : For Oumuama (Creative Sources)

Guitarist Henk Zwerver, bassist Raoul van der Weide and percussionist George Hadow, frequent collaborators in the Amsterdam free improv scene, join with Berlin saxophonist & clarinetist Edith Steyer to make up the Bertch Quartet, their debut album a great and embraceable example of subtle, collective free improvisations that merge traditional and non-idiomatic forms. ... Click to View


Colectivo maDam / Ernesto Rodrigues / Miguel Mira: Coluro (Creative Sources)

The Spanish free improvising quartet Colectivo maDam of Ruben Gutierrez on electronics, objects, Tomas Gris on acoustic guitar, Guillermo Torres on fluguelhorn, and David Area on electronics are joined by Lisbon improvisers Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and Miguel Mira on cello for this 3-part work, the first recorded live at Espacio B, Madrid, the 2nd & 3rd recorded in the studio. ... Click to View


The: Astra Choir Morton Feldman; Will Ogdon; Pauline Oliveros; Earle Brown; Warren Burt; Robert Carl: We, Like Salangan Swallows...: A Choral Gallery of Morton Feldman and Contemporaries (New World Records)

Melbourne, Australia's Astra Choir directed by John McCaughey use choral voice and appropriate instrumentation to interpret and present music from mediaeval to modern electronic and post-minimal music, here taking on compositions from Morton Feldman, Will Ogden, Pauline Oliveros, Warren Burt, Earle Brown, and Robert Carl. ... Click to View


Toshi Ichiyanagi with Eye Music: Sapporo (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Written in 1963 for up to 15 peformers plus a conductor who may also make sound, Japanese composer and Fluxus artist Toshi Ichiyanagi's score has 16 pages marked with combinations of lines, dots and letters indicating duration, number of events, and moments of restraint, each player using a different page, with certain options of switching pages with another player during performance. ... Click to View


Marianne Schuppe : Nosongs (Edition Wandelweiser Records)

Marianne Schuppe continues to reimagine songs and their relation to tone and melody, here in a series of 11 songs realized with voice, lute, and uber bows, creating delicate accompaniment to her lucid movements between pure sound and words, singing and speaking her lyrics of succinct phrases rich in subtle intimation and evocative imagery; beautiful. ... Click to View


Tim Feeney: Burrow [CASSETTE] (Marginal Frequency)

Meridian percussionist and frequent collaborator with Vic Rawlings and Annie Lewandowski, Tim Feeney presents a fascinating solo album of "four improvised poundings" using "a drum, a pair of sticks, a metal plate, a pair of dowels, a heavy cymbal, a large room, a small squirrel, a static listening, a punishing listening, a boring listening, a quickening listening". ... Click to View


Lisbon String Trio & Eduardo Chagas: Tactile (Creative Sources)

A live performance at O'Culto da Ajuda in Lisbon from the Lisbon String Trio of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Alvaro Rosso on contrabass, joined in this concert by Creative Sources frequenct collaborator Eduardo Chagas (Variable Geometry Orchestra, IKB, Suspensao, &c), a large work of microscopically detailed and concentrative acoustic improv. ... Click to View


Free Music Septet: Meandros e Vertentes (Creative Sources)

A live recording from the acoustic septet Free Music 7tet of Ernesto Rodrigues (viola), Luiz Rocha (clarinets), Guilherme Rodrigues (cello), Eduardo Chagas (trombone), and (piano), Hernani Faustino (double bass) and Paulo Ferreira Lopes (drums), performing at O'Culto da Ajuda, for five improvisations from active free improv to lowercase exploration. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Eduardo Chagas: Holes and Cracks (Creative Sources)

A lowercase duo of intense focus and concentrative dialog from Creative Sources label leader Eernesto Rodrigues on viola and trombonist Eduardo Chagas, a member of IKB, Variable Geometry Orchestra, Suspensao, &c., through five recordings using primarily extended techniques and close proximity miking to create unusual textural and alien soundcscapes of great tension and release. ... Click to View


Jacques Demierre / Anouck Genthon: Teyerit (Confront)

A series of unusual compositions originally written by Jacques Demmiere and Vincent Barras, here reworked by Demmiere and violinist Anouck Genthon, each piece focusing on sounds, breaths, frictions, silences, vowels and consonants, weaving and complementing each other through a mix of traditional, extended and unconventional techniques; fascinating. ... Click to View


Felicie Bazelaire / Bertrand Denzler: Basse Seule (Confront)

A series of etudes and pieces for double bass composed by Bertrand Denzler specifically for Paris-based cellist and double bass player Felicie Bazelaire, presenting 7 etudes and 2 named compositions based on systems that require Bazelair to reveal the complexity of certain characteristics of the double bass within the framework of a solo performance. ... Click to View


Andrew Coltrane : F.T.W. [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

Detroit sound artist Andrew Coltrane recorded this work of complex noise and feedback in Detroit in 2011, recording to 4-track cassette with instrumenation including saxophone, flute, bowed strings, voice, synthesizer, tape loops, short wave, field recordings, and electronics, creating a thickly detailed album of unpredictable yet uniquely organized sound. ... Click to View


Sissy Spacek: Basement [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

The Los Angeles grindcore/noise band of Charlie Mumma, John Wiese, and Phil Blankenship in a cassette of brutal noise performed at Bronson, in Los Angeles California in 2014, both tracks using a similar explosive approach to sound, "Deja Vu" having more space between events while "Unfolding Universe" adds a thick noise floor that approaches white noise at time. ... Click to View


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  Mike Hammer, Les Baxter and the Jewish People  

The Many Tribes of John Zorn


By Skip Heller 2003-08-22


Photo: Peter Gannushkin
The American assessment of art and artists has always put a weighty premium on age. That an artist turns 50 is a huge thing in terms of our view of him and his art. It gives us a chance to salute him for outliving Charlie Parker, Anton Webern, Hank Williams or Jimi Hendrix. And it gives us a chance to level condemnation on him for no longer being a source of constant surprise.

This month, John Zorn turns 50. He is no longer The Angry Young Man, and critics from publications that cater to a different segment of the world's cultural community will try and elucidate what his work has meant up to now, who he has influenced, how he has influenced them, and what it means.

This society generally, and the subculture Zorn represents specifically, each have age issues. The unwritten law seems to be that progress is the purview of the young, and that brevity of vision is exclusive to those who still have youthful folly going for them. In the avant garde, there is always a need for whatever is supposed to be next.

This youthful folly factor frequently results in shallow music characterized by a disregard for history. Not always, but often. Zorn, on the other hand, is soaking in history. From re-introducing Sonny Clark's Blue Note recordings through Mancini and into Jewish literature, Zorn is forever seeking precedent and tradition, often aligning himself with musicians not inherently loved within his community. Blue Note house organist Big John Patton leaps to mind.

The avant garde also has a definite "fuck the blues" faction in its midst, which Zorn has never bought into. And it usually takes a Zorn or a box set from Revenant to introduce these noodleheads to this most enduringform. I doubt they get it (the recent scholarly essays on Charley Patton are a fucking joke). But Zorn gets it.

Another interesting mountain on the Zorn map is his embrace of certain postwar/pre-Kennedy instrumental popmusic. In the 1980s, few things could have been less fashionable than to embrace the exotica of Les Baxter or the lite jazz of Henry Mancini, but there was Zorn (along with the unsung WNYC DJ David Garland) mounting on-air marathons of the stuff, doing more to lay the groundwork for the rediscovery of that music than any of the fez-wearing lounge-oid hipsters could ever know or will ever admit. To that crowd, "loungecore" represented another clothing fad and excuse for knowing irony.

But one listen to Zorn's record Spillane tells us that he saw it as music, real music that rated better treatment than irony. I get the sense that he saw it as a postwar expression of national optimism, but with a kind of deep, dark question attatched.

I doubt that most of the people reading this have an extensive background in the 1950s Mike Hammer novels (actually, take that up to 1966 to include The Twisted Thing, the last of the classic Hammers, seeing as the two '90s comeback novels, The Killing Man and Black Alley, really sucked). Those of the academe tend to single out Spillane generally and I, The Jury specifically as junk.

Piss on that and piss on them. Mickey Spillane was a great storyteller, and he had the concerns of his audience very much at heart. When Jury went into its first printing in 1948, it addressed a very specific need. His readers were men, men who had just come back from World War II. They had just been part of the largest thing they would ever be part of and were collective heroes. Their struggles and victories were celebrated in songs, films, on billboards, and more. They had been to places many of them could not even have dreamt of previously, had made love to French prostitutes, shot enormous guns, kicked Hitler's ass, and struggled daily to stay alive in the most threatening conditions known to humankind. Then they came back home to Sandusky, Ohio (or places like that), to regular jobs behind the wheels of trolley cars or on factory assembly lines. Yes, they were happy to see their loved ones again. But being shrunk back down to normal life-size after having been huge and heroic created a spiritual itch in their collective sense of self and few authors scratched it. Spillane was probably the only novelist who wrote in their language, and who gave them a larger than life hero -- Mike Hammer -- with whom they could identify. He talked the way they talked, fought and fucked the way they felt they fought and fucked. He gave them a Walter Mitty outlet that suited their self-image as big tough guys who lived honestly in a brutal and dishonest world. Reading a Mike Hammer book, you were no longer just some guy who pulled the lever on a piece of equipment in some tuna cannery. You were the guy men wanted to be, the guy women wanted.

I think Zorn understood this aspect of Mickey Spillane. In fact, I'm sure of it. I read all the Hammer novels when I was in high school (usually with the Peter Gunn soundtrack playing in the background). What Mike Hammer prized above all things was humanity, friendship, and justice. And, looking back on Spillane the album, which came out in 1987, I see it now as a very brave work.

I don't think its bravery is in the jump-cut construction for which Zorn was celebrated at the time. I see it as brave in its loving attitude towards Spillane and the world he represented. Looking back at 1987 and thereabouts, I see a lot of alienation in popular American culture. Sam Kinison was probably our most famous comedian, and he was definitely loud and alienated. The emergent songwriter du jour was Lyle Lovett, whose penchant for ironywas as notable as his haircut. Jim Jarmusch had become everyone's darling. It was the time of guys like Oliver North, and being detatched was probably our best defense as smart people.

But Zorn's clear affection for Spillane was not detached, nor was it at all ironic. It was real. His love for Spillane's New York glistened like holy water. And there was something about the quickness and toughness of the piece, with its myriad of music bursts, text, noise, and sound effects, that said "We can all have big dicks and fists of steel if we only believe." Spillane was about the American ideal of pioneering spirit, toughness, and compassion as much as it was ever about Mike Hammer.

As great as many of Zorn's subsequent records were, most notably those with Naked City, I don't think he got as personal again until Masada. Somehow, I see Naked City as the brainchild of a guy who had discovered and was comfortable with himself. There's a confidence there that somehow only comes with being a journeyman. With NC, I think it became official that Zorn was no longer in a formative period.

But Masada is different. I think largely because Zorn was rediscovering himself through Jewish music, which I get the feeling was something he had not yet absorbed as thoroughly and as internally as he had absorbed, say, Charles Ives or Carl Stalling. So he took us on that journey with him, to discover that music his way with him.

More than at any time in his career, I've gotten the sense that Zorn has let the music take the wheel. The thoughts and emotions expressed in the Masada music - and Kristallnacht, which can likely be taken as an orchestral outgrowth of those same emotions - sound to me like the most basic ones in his heart and mind. They're the largest canon of pieces in his catalog at this point.

Zorn has said he conceived the Masada music as "a book of tunes the way Thelonious Monk had a book of tunes," andI believe it. No music he's ever made has had more immediacy and universal flexibility than the Masada music.

The development of Masada seemed to coincide with the 1995 formation of Tzadik, Zorn's American record label.The marketplace was suddenly flooded with discs that gave us a view into seemingly every aspect of Zorn's musical universe. About the only musician of concern to Zorn absent from the roster seems to have been Phil Woods. Everything from Asian bar bands to Milford Graves to Radical Jewish Culture was represented with a prolific release schedule. And Zorn himself started releasing more of his own music than anyone since Frank Zappa. As I write this, the All Music Guide lists 58 Zorn releases on Tzadik and seven on Avant, plus about ten Masada's on DIW. Few people own the entire Zorn-releated catalogue, and fewer still like all of it. Like Zappa's, the diversity and sheer size of Zorn's catalogue is daunting.

Masada has been the most enduring Zorn project, probably because it's the most stripped-down and, on that level, immediate from a compositional standpoint. Also, it seems to give Zorn the most facets for his expression.

Recently, I saw Masada play a benefit for Tonic in New York's Lower East Side with Ben Perowsky filling in for Joey Baron. My wife and I took a cab down to the club. I had never seen Zorn live before this night. I had listened to a ton of his records, had spoken to him on the phone a few times, whatever. But I had never seen him in the flesh. Greg Cohen introduced us, and we embraced, and immediately started jabbering enthusiastically about Les Baxter. A few minutes later, my wife and I went into the main room of the club. I've seen Dave Douglas a bunch of times, ditto Greg Cohen. Perowsky was wonderful, which I expected.

The real shock of the evening was the saxophonist. We've all hit ourselves over the head with "Zorn as icon" so many times that it's almost like an ambush when we're confronted with Zorn the player.

I will say this: I think the reason he's been so successful is that no other avant garde musician has been nearly so able to get down. I'm not talking about note-per-second(although he's in pretty good shape there). I'm talking about something that has been forgotten in the saxophone mainstream since the post-Trane advent. I'm talking about something Gene Ammons understood but that Wayne Shorter probably wouldn't. I mean, Zorn can get up in a bar and get it over, the old way.

Composition - not spontaneous composition, but finite composition (i.e. dots on paper) - gives you a chance to rethink and retool your way to your ideal conception. Taking a solo in the moment doesn't. You're exposed for who or what you are in the moment, even if you're John Zorn. Especially if you're John Zorn. Game theory this, index card that, Radical Jewish the other -- nobody gives a rat's ass in the moment. You put the horn in your mouth, that's what it is.

And you could tell it all came down to Zorn playing the alto saxophone. There were the snorks, squeaks, sputters, and screams that we all know and love. There were long, beautiful lines, spiked with blues and Jewish motifs. And, in all that, there was a command of music and sonic language, a real sound, and the ability to get it over in a way that says more about Maceo Parker than John Coltrane.

It was a wonderful little set. I'll spare you any review past that.

That night, I thought about the way we spoke of Baxter and Mancini, as excited fans. And I thought of the exuberance of Zorn's playing. It's clear to me that what John Zorn primarily wants to do, at least with Masada, is make music that will excite him as much as those Baxter records excite him.

Les Baxter turned 50 in 1971, largely forgotten by an industry in which he was once a giant. He was still prolific, but was tethered to the world of B-movies, and had just made his last album Que Mango. He watched Henry Mancini's continued success with some bitterness, and took his comfort in material success. All those B-movies landed on the Late Late Show, and his broadcast residuals from that action were quite considerable.



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