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REVIEW: John Zorn at 60 @ Walker Art Center & St. Mark’s (Minneapolis, MN – 4/6/13)

12th Apr 13 (Fri) Leave a comment

John Zorn - only pulled out his horn at the very end

John Zorn turns 60 this coming September, and Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center wanted to throw a Zorn Fest of sorts.  Since Zorn doesn’t like to travel, he wanted to keep it to a minimum: not a 3+ day fest, but hey, let’s do it all on one day!  And thus “Zorn @ 60” at Walker Art Center was born!

Check out what 60 of Zorn’s contemporaries have said about him… Part 1 & Part 2.

There have already been a  few great reviews already posted (Jazz Police / Walker Art / City Pages); so I’ll keep my write-up to my own personal reflections, and not as in-depth, per se.  Here’s who Zorn had with him for this fest, in different assemblies… Cyro Baptista, percussion; Joey Baron, drums; Greg Cohen, bass; Chris Cunningham, guitar; Marc Feldman, violin; Eric Friedlander, cello; Michelle Kinney, cello; John Medeski, piano, Hammond B3; Ikue Mori, electronics; Marc Ribot, guitar; Joey Schad, electric keyboards; Kenny Wollesen, vibraphone, percussion, and drums.

Well, first off, due to documentaries, I know what Zorn sounds like… and I was getting off the elevator at my hotel and I heard a familiar voice.  Then I looked up, and “whoa, John Zorn is getting on the elevator that I’m getting off of.”  I almost wanted to act like I forgot something in my room and ride up with him.  Alas, I wussed out.  Then in the lobby, Marc Ribot was futzing around on his phone, and Greg Cohen’s massive upright bass case was blocking the front desk.  It all added to my overall giddiness for the day…

John Zorn discussion w/ Philip Bither

The full day of Zorn @ 60 started at 3pm with a sit down with fest curator Philip Bither.  Zorn is a lively, humorous, acerbic character.  I kinda love him.  Probably more f-bombs and frivolity than most Q&A sessions, the near hourlong session was highly interesting.

The first part of the discussion talked about Zorn’s age… as the fest was all about his experience and what got him to where he is now in the scene at 60.  Zorn talked a little bit about other “60” celebrations he’s doing this year (of all things MySpace has the best list), and one that he’s doing at The Met (NYC) completely intrigued me… ten performances every hour on the hour in different galleries throughout the museum on September 1st (Facebook link).  if I can swing a way to be in NYC for most of September, I’d be happy.  Unlikely, though.

Some of the best quotes from the interview and Q&A (paraphrased from my scribbles):

[about turning 60]“You don’t have any more doubts.”

“They’ve been saying I’ve been playing ironically for decades… that’s bullshit. But they don’t believe me when I say that’s bullshit.”

“Ribot plays guitar like a mutha’fucka!”

“I live in a library [of books, LPs, CDs, DVDs]… I didn’t have a kitchen for over a decade, but I didn’t have cockroaches either!”

[on creativity] “There were probably Bach-types banging on logs [in the earliest times]. Creativity is mystical, spiritual, ineffable.”

[on his schedule for the day] “Eating is a drag… it’ll only slow you down.”

[on critics] “The secret to longevity is to stay away from negative people… all reviews are bad. We don’t need that bullshit.”

And while I write reviews (and perhaps this is one), I understand his take on the industry of critique.

Marc Ribot plays selections from The Book of Heads
(about 20 minutes)

Mark Ribot performs with Doveman at The Studio in Sydney Opera House for Vivid Live 5th June 2010. (photo by Daniel Boud)

John Zorn / Marc Ribot - The Book of HeadsFirst music of the day… Marc Ribot by himself with a guitar, some pedals, a violin bow, some balloons, and an intenseness in his eyes.  The Book of Heads, an album of solo Etudes composed by Zorn, is a very difficult listen.  It screeches, it hurtles into many different directions.  It’s hard to follow, it’s hard to even want to listen to at some times.  Seeing it live, though, was quite fascinating.  It’s highly composed, but seemingly improvised.  Just seeing Marc’s stern look at the sheet music showed the composition.  He was intently following the haphazard that was on the page.  When one of the greatest guitarists is using balloons as a key part of the music making process, you know things are weird.  Weird but gripping.

Ribot played the following Etudes (not necessarily in this order): 13, 23, 9, 24, 22, 27, 7, 2.

Game Piece: Hockey with Kenny Wollesen & Erik Friedlander
(about 10 minutes)

John Zorn - Hockey

John Zorn - HockeyThe next piece was a trio game piece first created in 1978.  Zorn’s game pieces are a strict set of rules and is a structured, improvisational collaboration between the artists.  Hockey on record is OK to listen to, but like The Book of Heads and Cobra (below), it’s far more interesting in the live setting.

A game piece is…

As well as a sports game, a game piece may also be considered analogous to language: The performance is directed by a well defined set of rules (a grammar) but by no means fixed or predetermined (just as all sentences generated by the same grammar are not the same). The length of a piece may be arbitrary, just as a sentence can be of any imaginable length while still conforming to a strictly defined syntax.

This time is was Zorn on birdcalls, Kenny Wollesen on bird calls and percussion, and Erik Friedlander on cello.  With Kenny and Erik looking intently at Zorn for his verbal and hand motion directions.  The level of musicianship of these three players is amazing, and the game pieces are basically a way to stretch their creative musical muscles while making sounds that you’d never expect.  It’s not for the casual listener.

Game Piece: Cobra (for 11 players)
(3 games; about 30 minutes total)

John Zorn - holding up cue card during the Northsea Jazz Fest

John Zorn heard off stage before Cobra started: “Just don’t make any mistakes!”

John Zorn - CobraCobra takes the game piece concept to whole new levels.  The rules are more complex, and John Zorn doesn’t play but directs at the front.  Based on the card he holds up and his verbal and non-verbal cues, the musicians go off on an adventure – never the same in any repeat performance.

With eleven players on stage (all listed at the top of this post), they played three games of Cobra.  This was my first time seeing Cobra.  It’s very interactive, starting with Zorn’s lead, but the players get room to lead things too.  It’s improv, but still with a structure.  Here’s a glimpse at the cue card structure:

John Zorn - Cobra cue cardsHighlight for me: Joey Baron’s smile.  I get such a kick out of watching him play.  He’s probably the musician having the most fun ever on stage every time I see him.

Cobra was the end of the first program, and the fest broke for a couple hours.

Erik Friedlander plays selections from Masada Book Two: Volac
Masada String Trio, and
Bar Kokhba Sextet
(a little over an hour – total)

The second program was the chamber music segment (and also the part of the day where my notes have now gone missing).

Erik Friedlander plays Volac (John Zorn's Masada Book Two: Book of Angels)I’d seen Erik Friedlander before (both solo with his own stuff and playing Volac), and it was a great warm up for the increasingly larger groups playing music from John Zorn’s Masada Book Two set of music.  He played a gorgeous 20 minute selections from Volac.

Masada String TrioUp next was the Masada String Trio made up of the aforementioned Erik Friedlander on cello, Mark Feldman on violin, and Greg Cohen on upright bass.  While the music they played was composed (same with Bar Kokhba Sextet), John Zorn sat on the floor in front of them, conducting.  They played about 20 minutes from their Masada Book Two set.  Gorgeous players, gorgeous music!

Bar Kokhba SextetContinuing in the chamber music written & conducted by Zorn, the Bar Kokhba Sextet found the Masada String Trio joined by Joey Baron on drums, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and Marc Ribot on guitar.  This was probably the best part of the night for me – outside of the experience of seeing Cobra played for the first time.  The group effortlessly brought Zorn’s Masada tunes some groove, and seeing both Baron and Baptista work together percussively was a delight.

John Zorn’s Nova Express & The Concealed
encore:

John Zorn playing to Wallace Berman’s film Aleph
with Kenny Wollesen & Greg Cohen
(about 75 minutes total)

At the beginning of the third program, someone yelled out from the audience, “where’s your horn!?” to which John Zorn yelled back, “at home mother fucker!”  Irreverent and hilarious.  Even though he was lying (he brought out his alto sax for the final piece).John Zorn in Minneapolis 2013  Photo by Bryan Aaker.

Nova Express and The Concealed songs were played by Joey Baron on drums, show-stealer Kenny Wollesen on vibes, Erik Friedlander on cello, Mark Feldman on violin, Greg Cohen on upright bass, and John Medeski on piano.  These are two of Zorn’s better albums in the recent three years’ output (of ~36 albums!!!!).  Partly classical takes on Masada tunes (Nova Express), and partly mystical (The Concealed).

Zorn Zorn - Nova Express John Zorn - The Concealed

As mentioned, the only time John Zorn brought out his sax was for the visual installation piece Aleph – set to Wallace Bergman’s short cut-up film of the same name. Iit was a ripping, avant-garde piece in the dark, backlit by the film, with Zorn wailing on sax, Kenny Wollesen moving off of vibes on to the drums, and Greg Cohen on bass.  Stellar!

John Zorn’s The Hermetic Organ (midnight) @ St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral

John Zorn - hermetic organ

John Zorn - The Hermetic OrganA special free midnight performance of John Zorn’s The Hermetic Organ was across the street after the final third program of Zorn @ 60.  Most of the crowd piled over to St. Mark’s Cathedral to watch the contrasting and turgid organ piece.  I stayed for about half of the 30+ minute set and then slowly started my 2 mile, midnight walk back to my hotel – content at the day’s musical gifts.

A brilliant, music-packed day!  If you want to check out some videos of what went down, the French Zorn website le zornographe has linked to some performances posted from the Walker Art Center “Zorn @ 60” fest on YouTube:

Bar Kokhba Sextet “Sother”

Masada String Trio “Bethor”

John Zorn’s Cobra (piece 2)

Erik Friedlander ” Sannul”

The Concealed “Towards Kafiristan”

Nova Express “Between Two Worlds”

The Appropriate Linkage:

Next show for me… Soul’d Out Festival’s Charlie Hunter with Booker T. Jones & Carlton Jackson (first time as a trio) @ Dante’s (Portland 4/14)..

~Dan – np: ElleryLying Awake
Ellery - Lying Awake

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000WDSRVY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000WDSRVY&linkCode=as2&tag=essentialmusi-20

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John Zorn @ 60 in Minneapolis (soon)

9th Apr 13 (Tue) Leave a comment

John Zorn @ 60 in Minneapolis was awesome… I’m still decompressing, but I should have a write-up posted this week sometime…

John Zorn

John Zorn @ 60 – McGuire Theater @ Walker Art Center :: Minneapolis, MN
John Zorn discussion w/ Philip Bither
Marc Ribot plays selections from Book of Heads
Game Piece: Hockey with Kenny Wollesen & Erik Friedlander
Game Piece: Cobra (for 11 players)
Erik Friedlander plays selections from Masada Book Two: Volac
Masada String Trio
Bar Kokhba Sextet
John Zorn’s Nova Express & The Concealed
John Zorn’s playing to Wallace Berman’s film Aleph with Kenny Wollesen & Greg Cohen
John Zorn’s The Hermetic Organ (midnight) @ St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral

REVIEW: Trevor Dunn & Travis Laplante @ Wandering Goat (Eugene, OR – 1/31/12)

2nd Feb 12 (Thu) 8 comments

PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW AT THE BOTTOM

I’ve been a fan of Mr Bungle/Fantômas/John Zorn collaborative bass player Trevor Dunn for a while.  When I get a chance to see him, especially within biking distance, I go.  From Trevor Dunn’s website, the “Double Solo” tour was noted as a “West Coast spit-roasting agenda. I’ll be playing a 30 min solo bass piece & Travis [Laplante] will play a set for solo tenor saxophone.”  Ah, a night of avant-garde jazz… yum!

Ryan A. Miller from Portland was up first… he played about 30-40 minutes on solo acoustic guitar.  A lot of loops, noises, and a little bit of what might seem like “futzing around,” but I dug it.  There were definitely some odd parts, but I definitely thought his set was more interesting than not.  You could tell he had skills, just couldn’t tell how they were going to evolve and manifest.  Update 2/8/12: Ryan’s band (U SCO) was the opener for the Secret Chiefs 3 show in Portland the very next week.  U SCO is a wicked, rad schizophrenic proggy, jazzy rock trio.  Excellent stuff!

Travis Laplante took his spot on the floor just off stage and gave us an initial onslaught of loud, raucous alto sax.  His first piece reminded me of Peter Evans solo trumpet show from 2008.  Ballistic, unfocused melodically, intense… what avant-garde jazz is meant to be.  His second piece was gentler and more melodic at first.  It was contained but not necessarily restrained before he finally let loose at the end.  His third and final piece was a dronier delight.

Trevor Dunn played last and gave us the 30-minute piece that he’s tentatively calling “The Pentagram.”  He dedicated it to Pisces.  It definitely had a “composed” feel to it (later confirmed with Trevor), but it was open and free enough to let him explore where it could go.  He plucked, he scraped, he bowed, he played below the bridge, he played with clothespins on the strings.  To sum it up in a word: fascinating.  You’ve gotta love it when he makes a few of his other bands (Mr Bungle/Fantômas) seem “too mainstream.”

Update 2/7/12: Check out this East Bay Express write-up of the Oakland show by Rachel Swan… waaaaaay better write-up (she’s a journalist and rightfully gets paid for it).  Gives you a better feel for the Dunn piece as a whole.

Trevor and Travis are wrapping up this tour this coming weekend… tonight in San Francisco, then Friday in Oakland, Saturday in Los Angeles and Sunday in Santa Cruz.  Check his Tour Page for more info.

The Appropriate Linkage:

Next show for me… Thee Silver Mt. Zion (splinter group from Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at Mississippi Studios on 2/4.

~Dan – np: Frank ZappaThem Or Us

TREVOR DUNN & TRAVIS LAPLANTE PHOTOS
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

John Zorn guests on upcoming Napalm Death album

27th Jan 12 (Fri) Leave a comment

 

Napalm Death’s forthcoming album Utilitarian includes an appearance from John Zorn on track “Everyday Pox“. This isn’t the first time Zorn has appeared with Napalm Death – Mick Harris was the drummer in Zorn’s Painkiller trio (with Bill Laswell) and a split 7″ flexidisc was released in 1990.  Utilitarian comes out February 28, 2012, and is up for pre-order now.

~Dan – np: Zakarya413A

Mandala (a musical palindrome) by Daniel Starr-Tambor

27th Jan 12 (Fri) Leave a comment

File this under math music… maybe not as odd/arty as John Cage’s Slow Music project, but still a bit ethereal…

Mandala (a musical palindrome) by Daniel Starr-Tambor

With more than 62 vigintillion individual notes, “Mandala” is the longest palindrome in existence. Composed using the first nine partials of the Natural Harmonic Series repeating at the accelerated tempos of our solar system, Mandala would continue without repetition for over 532.25 septendecillion years. In homage to “Art of the Fugue” by J.S. Bach, “Mandala” has been crafted to include the “musical signature” of its author: the stereo imaging is arranged to reflect the exact position of the solar system at the moment of his birth, from the perspective of the Sun as it faces the constellation Libra, so that each note chronicles his birthday on every planet.

Have a great weekend!

~Dan – np: Damien JuradoMaraqopa

John Zorn w/ Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn & John Medeski

27th Dec 11 (Tue) Leave a comment

These posts from Tzadik mixer extraordinaire Marc Urselli made me giddy…

Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn & John Medeski together on a future John Zorn release?!  Excellent!  It’s not listed on the Tzadik upcoming releases page, yet

~Dan – np: Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – MTO Plays Sly

John Zorn – Composer Portrait Preview (NYC 12/9)

8th Dec 11 (Thu) Leave a comment

Avant-garde composer John Zorn has a “Composer Portrait” performance coming up at the Miller Theatre in NYC on December 9, 2011.  Here’s a video composer portrait preview…

http://www.millertheatre.com/

I always enjoy him talking about his process… of the “people who love what I do and people who hate what I do,” I’m in the love crowd.  He’s definitely not for everyone.  But if you dig avant-garde, experimental composed music and live near NYC – I’d highly recommend this show!

~Dan – np: ChevelleHats Off to the Bull

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