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John Zorn - The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.88 | 5 ratings

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4 stars John Zorn could arguably be the most diverse artists listed in the Archives. Not only that, he also has one of the largest discographies of all the musical artists out there. It can also be one of the most confusing, as he has his name attached to several different projects, and I would dare say that most of his discography doesn't even have his name listed as a performer. However, he is active in each of his projects as a composer, producer, and instigator of each one of them.

The Gnostic Trio is one of his many projects, but it is also a project within a project in a round-about way since the first one under this project name was originally included in a group of albums that he oversaw that had to do with mystically influenced albums. Since this original group of mystically-themed albums, Zorn has explored mystical themes quite a bit. Let's not get into that though, as you could write an entire book about it. Instead, let's focus on The Gnostic Trio which consists of the dynamic guitarist Bill Frisell, the vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen (who has collaborated with Zorn quite extensively) and the amazing harpist Carol Emanuel. These three musicians have formed the core of The Gnostic Trio and under this name have made at least 7 albums under Zorn's large umbrella.

The first album this project released is this one: "The Gnostic Preludes", released in 2012. This album is made up of 8 preludes, most of which are around 6 minutes long. The music is quite accessible, but it is also quite complex in it's own right. All three musicians are excellent at their craft, so the music is quite professionally done and easy to listen to, but also very enjoyable. But as simple as it sounds, it isn't due to the fact that it it necessarily has a typical structure. There isn't much dissonance in the sound, but there is some, however, it is some of Zorn's most accessible music, so don't expect anything really avant-garde, however, it is highly artistic and quite beautiful.

The spiritual/mystical aspect of the music is apparent in its laidback and exalting tone which is enhanced by Frisell's signature style, his laid-back tone and style, yet even with his status, he still becomes an equal partner in the trio's structure. The three musicians work together beautifully, each one working in supporting roles at times and at other times, each one taking the lead when needed. Simplicity in a folk-ish sense in the central feel of the music, yet the individual tracks still have their own personalities. The album does not fall into the trap that other albums with a similar, simple line-up might have, that of sounding too much the same throughout. For example, "The Middle Pillar" hints around at a Spanish flamenco sound while "The Book of Pleasure" leans more toward a jazz-inflected chamber piece. In "Music of the Spheres", both Frisell and Wollesen perform a fascinating interplay while Emmanuel provides a lovely background to their antics.

No doubt that this is one that most everyone will enjoy. It is also a great front-door to Zorn's work as it is quite intensive. However, if you are afraid of what you might have heard about Zorn's other works and projects, this one is quite safe, yet it has a very poetic and mystical feel to it. It is easy to forget that this music is made up of 3 instrumentalists as it seems so vast, not shallow like many new age artists that were around at the time. This is far from that, it is authentic and it is the heart that you feel in this music, that it is authentic and all the more interesting because of that. If you love your music simple, stripped down to a simple guitar, vibraphone and harp, that can still manage to challenge your deepest musical passions, then this is for you. It is definitely one that people should be giving more attention to.

TCat | 4/5 |


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