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John Zorn - O'o CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.62 | 34 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars John Zorn: O'o [2009]

Rating: 8/10

Recent years have shown John Zorn becoming more and more acquainted with the melodic side of his musical persona. Zorn has been on the vanguard of avant-garde music for more than thirty years now, exploring countless styles throughout his gargantuan discography. The vast majority of these albums consist of absolutely brutal music with little regard for standard musical convention. Zorn released a few melodic jazz albums during the early 2000s, but the latter half of the decade has been largely dedicated to this style. O'o is certainly one of the finest examples of Zorn's mellow side, if not the finest. This is an absolutely superb piece of melodic jazz performed by some of the finest musicians in the business. Marc Ribot proves his guitar prowess yet again, and Jamie Saft performs some of the best piano lines I have ever heard in this style. Kenny Wollesen's vibraphone may be the most omnipresent instrument here, and his performance certainly does not disappoint.

"Miller's Crake" is an instant jazz classic. The piano lines are brilliant and unforgettable. "Akialoa" is a hypnotic piece of surf-music with gorgeous vibes. The surf music continues on "Po'o'uli." This is a pleasant piece, but it's a bit too needlessly repetitive. "Little Bittern", another highlight, is a groovy track with amazing guitar work from Ribot. "Mysterious Starling" features yet another beautiful piano performance. "Laughing Owl" continues with the infectious grooves and the stunning piano. "Archaeopteryx" is a subdued semi-ambient piece with haunting guitar/vibe interplay. "Solitaire" is a short samba piece. Cryo Baptista's percussion sounds fantastic here. Saft breaks out the electric organ on "Piopio", and it sounds enormous. "Zapata Rail" features more excellent organ, and the cymbal-heavy drum work is irresistible. "Kakawahie" is another quiet surf piece. It doesn't bring anything new to the table, but it is still a joy to listen to. "Magdalena" concludes the album with more great grooves and a flurry of excellent electronic instrumentation.

O'o is undoubtedly one of the strongest albums that Zorn has ever created. Each of these pieces is brilliantly composed and beautifully performed. The quality is made even more impressive by the fact that this isn't Zorn's normal style. However, I do feel like this album can occasionally become a bit too melodic. Some of the repetition is unnecessary. Regardless, the "evaluator music" criticism that this album sometimes receives is entirely unjustified. This is a complex and multilayered release that happens to also be subdued and melodic. Even the most moderate jazz fans should be sure to familiarize themselves with O'o. It is one of the most rewarding releases from one of music's most creative minds.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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