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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

The future of Zorn’s Masada Book Two

8th Jun 11 (Wed) Leave a comment

Every time I talk about it, I’ll state that Masada Book Two is one of the best series on John Zorn’s Tzadik label.  The quick premise: One page of music in a book of 300+ tunes, given to others to interpret and record.

Who has done it so far (bold being my faves so far): Jamie Saft Trio, Masada String Trio, Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier, Koby Israelite, The Cracow Klezmer, Uri Caine, Marc Ribot, Erik Friedlander, Secret Chiefs 3, Bar Kokhba Sextet, Medeski Martin & Wood, Masada Quintet featuring Joe Lovano, Mycale, The Dreamers, Ben Goldberg Quartet, Masada String Trio, and Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits.

All seventeen thus far as stupendous releases… you can’t go wrong, especially if you love improvisational jazz and klezmer.  Listen: Amazon search page.

Good Aural blog posted the following yesterday:

According to John Zorn, Tzadik records will release about four—possibly five—more Masada Book Two albums in 2012. It’s amazing to think that we’ll be hearing volumes 18, 19, 20, 21, and maybe even 22 of Zorn’s Book of Angels by the end of next year.

Want a preview of who’ll be playing on these upcoming volumes? Here are the new Book of Angels releases planned for 2012:

New Klezmer Trio

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg is a pioneer in avant-garde Jewish music. His New Klezmer Trio released their first album, Masks and Faces, in 1992; it was reissued on Tzadik in 1996. New Klezmer Trio has since released several more albums on Tzadik: Melt Zonk Rewire and Short for Something.

In 2010 Goldberg recorded Baal: the Book of Angels vol. 15 with Masada book veterans Greg Cohen, Jamie Saft, and Kenny Wollesen. This new Ben Goldberg Quartet was assembled and conducted by Zorn himself.

Finally, Goldberg plays clarinet with the acoustic ensemble Tin Hat, which appeared on the Masada anniversary album Voices in the Wilderness.

David Krakauer

David Krakauer is a clarinetist firmly rooted in both klezmer and classical music. His band, Klezmer Madness!, incorporates elements from funk, jazz, and a variety of other genres. He has collaborated with the Kronos Quartet and made several releases on Zorn’s Tzadik label, including Klezmer Madness! and Klezmer, NY.

Given that Krakauer has collaborated with Uri Caine and played both clarinet and bass clarinet on John Zorn’s seminal Kristallnacht, it’s only natural that he should (finally!) record a set of tunes from The Book of Angels.

Pat Metheny

Guitarist Pat Metheny recorded the acclaimed free jazz album Song X with Ornette Coleman and recorded Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” with Kronos Quartet. Metheny’s upcoming Book of Angels entry is planned as a solo performance.

And Beyond…

Whatever Masada Book Two compositions remain will be recorded on one or two albums by artists not yet announced. Once those are completed, we’ll have finally reached the end of this chapter in Masada’s legacy. But for hardcore fans of this music, there’s still plenty to come.

On the horizon: Masada Book Three.

Good Aural apparently heard the news from John Zorn himself.  I had heard rumors of the Pat Metheny one in the past, and the other conspirators are consistent with who Zorn has worked with in the past.  I’m hoping Mike Patton’s Fantômas does something in this series in the future.  It’s not out of the realm – they did one song for the Unknown Masada album in 2003 (a pre-cursor to the Masada Book Two concept).  Oh, or the Moonchild Trio!! That would kick ass.

http://tzadik.com/

~Dan – np: Red Hot Chili PeppersStadium Arcadium

REVIEW: Stebmo & Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio @ Sam Bond’s Garage (Eugene, OR – – 5/31/08)

1st Jun 08 (Sun) 8 comments

Well, last night started out with a stuffed helping of veg food from our mostly monthly Veggie Supper Club here in Eugene. No FBI agents were in attendance… or were they… hmmm… we made biscotti, sweet potato gnocchi with mondo bizarro sauce. They was also fine wine, eggplant tapenade, flatbread pizzas, a nice chard dish, polenta lasagna, and a freakin’ amazing chocolate dessert. Oh no, my stomach a’splode!

Anyway, I hobbled/waddled over to Sam Bond’s Garage for a night of jazz afterwards. Good thing I was full, too… Sam Bond’s got some killer veggie grub (surprisingly killer for bar food). Before the show I picked up Stebmo’s self-titled CD (with Eyvind Kang, Matt Chamberlain, Tucker Martine, Todd Sickafoose, etc) and one of Skerik’s CDs (with Eyvind Kang, Tim Young, etc). Skerik, running the merch at that time, noticed my Secret Chiefs 3 shirt. \m/

Stebmo (aka Steve Moore) started the night around 10pm. I had heard some of his samples from CDBaby; so I knew a little about his sound. Apparently he’s also played in recent live versions of Sunn O))) & worked with Sufjan Stevens & Bill Frisell… or so says his bio. Though he also plays trombone, his set was comprised of keyboards and electronics/loops. He played 40 minutes and had a good mix of experimental and groove-oriented pieces. Perhaps a bit like the organic/melodic elements of the Album Leaf mixed with the building nature of an Explosions in the Sky set mixed with a heaping handful of electronic jots & tittles like those that may have hit the Kid A cutting room floor. I found his set thoroughly enjoyable, as did most of the packed house (80-100 people is my guess).

Stebmo

Skerik’s Maelstrom Trio is Skerik on tenor sax (from Seattle), Brian Coogan on Hammond B-3 Organ & Simon Lott on drums/trumpet (both from Baton Rouge). I’ve heard of Skerik many times via various NYC downtown scene musicians. The Trio went on around 11pm… I stayed for over an hour of their set (12:15am or so). I wish I could have stayed, but I was BEAT.

Anyway, they started out in the experimental / free jazz realm, but didn’t stay there the whole night. Their set was a plethora of sounds… much of it very groove oriented (probably due to the Hammond B-3 throughout). They seemed to be having fun playing together, too – – which ain’t bad to see. :)

Simon (on drums) was fun to watch… he worked well in both the groove and grooveless/experimental compositions. He also pulled out a tiny trumpet for one of the songs which mixed well with Skerik’s sax. Skerik’s sax sound was nice a full (I guess I’m more familiar with alto sax), and he (again) played a good mix of groove and free jazz. On one of the songs he played what I think was a talk box through his sax which was unique to my concert going experiences thus far. Many a guitar talk box, but nary a sax talk box. Fun stuff…

(not from last night’s show)
Skerik's Maelstrom Trio

Great show! I’m glad they stopped by, and I hope they stop by again in some form or another.

Where they’re heading next?

Jun 3 2008 Lion’s Lair [Stebmo opens] Denver, Colorado
Jun 4 2008 Trilogy Wine Bar [Stebmo opens] Boulder, Colorado
Jun 5 2008 Aggie Theatre [Stebmo opens] Fort Collins, Colorado
Jun 6 2008 Telluride Jazz Festival (Fly Me to the Moon Saloon) Telluride, Colorado
Jun 7 2008 Telluride Jazz Festival (McCoy Tyner Stage) Telluride, Colorado
Jun 7 2008 Telluride Jazz Festival (Fly Me to the Moon Saloon) Telluride, Colorado
Jun 10 2008 The Mint [opening for Rebirth Brass Band] Los Angeles, California
Jun 11 2008 The Mint [opening for Rebirth Brass Band] Los Angeles, California
Jun 12 2008 Kuumbwa Jazz Center [Stebmo/Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3) also on bill] Santa Cruz, California
Jun 13 2008 Boom Boom Room [Stebmo opens] San Francisco, California
Jun 14 2008 Hopmonk Brewery [Stebmo opens] Sebastopol, California
Jun 15 2008 Red Fox Tavern [Stebmo opens] Eureka, California

The appropriate linkage:

Upcoming shows: Or Not to Be (Hamlet Zombies), Jude Christodal in PDX, Bill Frisell/Eyvind Kang/Royston in Eugene… and maybe a JoFederigo jazz show (I’ve got a free dessert coupon; so why not?)…

~Dan – pp: The Book ShowEpisode 14 with Richard Dawkins
np: Bar Kokhba SextetMasada Book Two: Lucifer

PS- this was posted to Skerik’s MySpace:
Kickin it with Origami Barack Mandela!! from Tomo in Eugene!!

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