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John Zorn - At the Gates of Paradise CD (album) cover


John Zorn



4.00 | 2 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
4 stars John Zorn: At the Gates of Paradise [2011]

Rating: 8/10

At the Gates of Paradise is another installment in a series of piano-driven melodic jazz albums from American composer John Zorn. Back in the 90s, nobody would have expected Zorn to ever release a mellow collection of relaxing jazz tunes. The man is known for creating absolutely brutal and dense avant-garde music that frightens children and small animals. In recent years, however, Zorn has embraced a style that falls on the opposite end of the sonic spectrum. He has dedicated a large portion of his recent compositional energy to light jazz music that could please the average music fan. He is astonishingly proficient in this style. In fact, he may be more adept with this type of music than he is with avant-garde music. At the Gates of Paradise is one of the best albums that Zorn has ever done. An all-star cast of musicians (including keyboard maestro John Medeski) meets Zorn's incredible songwriting to create a masterful piece of work.

"The Eternals" is a gorgeous opener with layers of sparkling piano and vibes. "Song of Innocence" is a contemplative piece of laid-back jazz that makes me want to watch the sun set on a cabana beach. "A Dream of Nine Nights" may be the best mellow jazz piece that Zorn has ever written. The first half is quiet and calming, and the second half is groovy and energizing. Medeski's piano playing is absolutely jaw-dropping. "Light Forms" is the most freeform piece here, with relatively disorganized percussion and piano sounds. "The Aeons" features a hypnotizing piano sequence and excellent bass work. "Liber XV" actually sounds quite spacey. The vibes evoke an image of a cosmic voyage. "Dance of Albion" features an unforgettable main theme and a driving groove. "Song of Experience" ends the album on a tranquil note with more shimmering piano and vibes.

At the Gates of Paradise is a crowning achievement for Zorn. Nearly everything about this album is spectacular: the composition, the musicianship, the atmosphere, the structure. This is an absolute joy to listen to in every way. The only thing that prevents me from awarding this with a full-on masterpiece rating is the lack of musical variety. This is a tiny complaint, though. At the Gates of Paradise is an amazing collection of contemporary jazz tunes that should not be missed by any fan of jazz music. It would behoove Zorn newbies and skeptics to check this out, as well. I honestly can't imagine anybody not enjoying it to one extent or another.

Anthony H. | 4/5 |


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