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John Zorn - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 8: Wadada Leo Smith / Susie Ibarra / John Zorn CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.09 | 4 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Wadada Leo Smith/Susie Ibarra/John Zorn: 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 8 [2004]

Rating: 5/10

This is the eighth volume in John Zorn's month-long 50th Birthday Celebration series. This time around, percussionist Susie Ibarra and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith join Zorn for a lengthy series of improvisations. This album plays like two separate pieces of work: the first a tribal free-jazz bonanza with Ibarra, the second an improvisatory exchange with Smith. This is not music for the faint of heart; these 76 minutes are filled to the brim with blaring atonality and brutal experimentalism. Zorn strangles his alto saxophone without mercy, producing sounds one would not normally expect to come out the instrument. Needless to say, this is not the place for the Zorn newbie.

The first half of the album is a very good collection of avant-garde jazz improvs with interesting drumming from Ibarra. Her style is extremely tom-heavy, so it ends up sounding rather tribal. It serves as an interesting background to Zorn's sax madness. These tracks are enjoyable because each musician plays off the other quite well. The second half of the album is much less enjoyable. Smith and Zorn exchange parts throughout its entire duration; very rarely to they play at the same time. As a result, the music has an extremely awkward flow. There are lengthy moments of silence between the random bursts of blaring. It's quite boring because there's nothing to fix one's attention onto. This throws off the very good first half, so I can only consider the album as a whole to be average at best. This is a much more entertaining listen than some of Zorn's other ultra-avant albums, but it remains unessential material, even for devotees of such things.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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