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John Zorn - A Dreamers Christmas CD (album) cover

A DREAMERS CHRISTMAS

John Zorn

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

3.00 | 3 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars John Zorn: A Dreamers Christmas [2011]

Rating: 6/10

When I first learned of this album's existence, I was both amused and baffled. The idea of John Zorn doing a Christmas album is both funny and incredibly odd to anybody who knows the slightest thing about the man's normal musical output. Most of Zorn's discography consists of brutally dense avant-garde music that can only be approached by the fringes of the musical community. Actual music aside, the concepts behind most of Zorn's material is dark, macabre, and unapproachable. He has recorded albums dealing with topics such as slow torture, the Holocaust, pagan rituals, and existentialist poetry. Such things could not be more different from Frosty the Snowman.

This album is so far-removed from Zorn's normal style I couldn't help but feel that it was a gimmick. After all, the prospect of a preeminent avant-garde composer venturing into such pedestrian territory is rather intriguing. After listening to A Dreamers Christmas, however, my skepticism has slightly waned. There may still be a gimmicky element to the album, but it's clear that Zorn and his team of musicians took this recording seriously.

A Dreamers Christmas is not an avant-garde album; unfortunately, you won't get to hear a blaring free-jazz rendition of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." Zorn's "Dreamers" ensemble is strictly responsible for his lush and melodic compositions, which is exactly what is presented here. "Smooth-jazz" has a pejorative connotation within almost every non-mainstream music community, but it's the most apt label for this music. Seven Christmas classics are given a soft jazzy treatment, along with two original Zorn compositions. Light piano is the primary melodic focus here, but there is also some nice vibraphone and guitar work. Mike Patton shows up and gives a pleasant vocal rendition of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" that would make all 1950s longue singers proud.

A Dreamers Christmas is a fun and pleasant holiday album that is impossible not to passively enjoy. Still, there isn't a whole lot of depth to this release. You could play this at a family gathering without noticing a single upturned eyebrow, but is that really a positive thing? Taken at face value, A Dreamers Christmas is a pleasant yet unexciting piece of work. For an avant-garde musician like Zorn, however, releasing something so uncontroversial conversely becomes a controversial artistic act. It may be musak, but it's some of the better musak you'll hear this Christmas season.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |

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