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JOHN ZORN

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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John Zorn biography
Born 1953-09-02 in Queens, NYC, USA

Although very few people would think of John Zorn as a progressive rock artist, his close relation to the genre can't be denied. Not only has he repeatedly joined forces with Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears), he has also collaborated on several occasions with Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas) and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle). Maybe just as important is the fact that Zorn's side project Naked City is generally regarded as an important avant-rock/jazz outfit, and his Painkiller project takes things to even greater extremes with a mix of grindcore and free jazz. On top of that, there are several prog bands that mention him as a source of inspiration, and his Tzadik label has helped keeping avant-garde music alive by releasing albums of such prolific artists as Mike Patton, Maudlin Of The Well-offshoot Kayo Dot, Toby Driver, Buckethead, Fred Frith, Ruins, and many others. So, although not a "progrock" artist per se, Zorn's connection to the RIO/avant-prog scene is obvious and his discography is a valuable addition to the ever-increasing Prog Archives website.

Born in New York at September 2, 1953, John Zorn initially studied piano, flute, and guitar and learned contemporary art music through a program of self-study. He took up the alto saxophone (which was to become his major instrument) and began to study jazz at age twenty. Zorn has always been interested in many kinds of music, including such 20th-century composers as Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern, Charles Ives, Edgard Varèse, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Harry Partch, John Cage, and Mauricio Kagel, but he is also very fond of free jazz musicians such as Ornette Coleman, film music composer Ennio Morricone, and Carl Stallings, who wrote music for cartoons. In addition, Zorn's influences include doo-wop and other pop music, including thrash metal/grindcore band Napalm Death. As a teenager, Zorn was already writing contemporary art music in the vein of the composers mentioned above, and the influence of two of them figures strongly in Zorn's later works (in which he experimented with aspects of chance, after Cage, and 'game pieces', after Kagel). His liking of extreme metal led to the founding (around 1990) of the groups Naked City and Painkiller. In addition to the aforementioned 'game pieces' (including "Lacrosse", "Pool", "Hockey" and "Archery") and avant-metal (including "Naked City" and Painkiller's "Guts Of A Virgin"), Zorn has released recordings of chamber mus...
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JOHN ZORN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

JOHN ZORN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.20 | 5 ratings
School (With Eugene Chadbourne)
1978
1.40 | 5 ratings
Environment For Sextet (with Andrea Centazzo, Eugene Chadbourne, Tom Cora, Toshinori Kondo, Polly Bradfield )
1979
3.00 | 6 ratings
Pool
1980
1.40 | 11 ratings
Archery
1981
1.81 | 7 ratings
Yankees (with Derek Bailey & George Lewis)
1982
3.11 | 18 ratings
Locus Solus
1983
2.55 | 11 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume One
1983
3.30 | 11 ratings
Ganryu Island (Michihiro Sato / John Zorn)
1985
2.11 | 9 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume Two
1985
3.19 | 29 ratings
The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays The Music Of Ennio Morricone
1986
3.92 | 32 ratings
Spillane
1987
3.21 | 25 ratings
Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman
1988
3.13 | 13 ratings
News for Lulu (with George Lewis / Bill Frisell)
1988
2.67 | 6 ratings
Cynical Hysterie Hour (Film Works VII)
1989
3.51 | 19 ratings
Elegy
1992
2.70 | 24 ratings
Kristallnacht
1993
3.53 | 11 ratings
The Art Of Memory (John Zorn / Fred Frith)
1995
2.00 | 5 ratings
First Recordings 1973
1995
3.35 | 14 ratings
Redbird
1995
2.14 | 7 ratings
Nani Nani (Dekoboko Hajime / Yamantaka Eye)
1995
1.97 | 9 ratings
The Book Of Heads
1995
1.86 | 7 ratings
Film Works II: Music For An Untitled Film By Walter Hill
1995
2.71 | 7 ratings
Film Works III: 1990-1995
1995
2.20 | 5 ratings
Film Works V: Tears Of Ecstasy
1996
2.20 | 5 ratings
Film Works VI: 1996
1996
2.83 | 6 ratings
Hockey
1997
3.20 | 5 ratings
Lacrosse
1997
2.80 | 10 ratings
New Traditions In East Asian Bar Bands
1997
1.75 | 4 ratings
Film Works IV: S/M + More
1997
3.23 | 13 ratings
Duras: Duchamp
1997
2.50 | 4 ratings
Euclid's Nightmare (John Zorn / Bobby Previte)
1997
3.03 | 11 ratings
Angelus Novus
1998
2.50 | 4 ratings
Film Works VIII:1997
1998
2.71 | 7 ratings
Aporias: Requia For Piano And Orchestra
1998
3.50 | 10 ratings
The Bribe - Variations And Extensions On Spillane
1998
3.00 | 12 ratings
Music For Children
1998
3.67 | 15 ratings
Taboo & Exile
1999
3.38 | 13 ratings
The String Quartets
1999
2.67 | 6 ratings
Xu Feng
2000
3.56 | 9 ratings
Cartoon S/M
2000
3.00 | 6 ratings
Film Works IX: Trembling Before G-d
2000
2.20 | 5 ratings
Film Works X: In The Mirror Of Maya Deren
2001
3.81 | 18 ratings
The Gift
2001
3.84 | 10 ratings
Madness, Love And Mysticism
2001
3.00 | 7 ratings
Songs From The Hermetic Theater
2001
3.77 | 11 ratings
IAO
2002
3.83 | 5 ratings
Film Works XI: 2002 Volume One - Under The Wing
2002
2.80 | 5 ratings
Film Works XII: 2002 Volume Two - Three Documentaries
2002
3.38 | 8 ratings
Film Works XIII: 2002 Volume Three - Invitation To A Suicide
2002
3.71 | 5 ratings
Film Works XIV: Hiding And Seeking
2003
3.10 | 10 ratings
Chimeras
2003
3.53 | 14 ratings
Magick
2004
2.50 | 4 ratings
Naninani II (Yamataka Eye / John Zorn)
2004
3.04 | 8 ratings
Film Works XV: Protocols Of Zion
2005
3.63 | 8 ratings
Rituals
2005
2.50 | 4 ratings
Film Works XVI: Working Man's Death
2005
4.33 | 9 ratings
Sanatorium Under The Sign Of The Hourglass
2005
3.00 | 11 ratings
Mysterium
2005
3.00 | 4 ratings
Film Works XVII: Notes On Marie Menken / Ray Bandar: A Life With Skulls
2006
1.67 | 3 ratings
Film Works XVIII: The Treatment
2006
2.23 | 7 ratings
From Silence to Sorcery
2007
4.21 | 15 ratings
Film Works XIX: The Rain Horse
2008
3.60 | 20 ratings
The Dreamers
2008
3.00 | 5 ratings
Filmworks XX: Sholem Aleichem
2008
3.20 | 5 ratings
Filmworks XXI: Belle de Nature/The New Rijksmuseum
2008
3.25 | 4 ratings
Filmworks XXII: The Last Supper
2008
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Art Of Memory II (John Zorn / Fred Frith)
2008
3.44 | 9 ratings
Filmworks XXIII: El General
2009
3.97 | 15 ratings
Alhambra Love Songs
2009
3.72 | 37 ratings
O'o
2009
4.21 | 15 ratings
Femina
2009
3.89 | 29 ratings
In Search Of The Miraculous
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
a child's adventures in the realms of the unreal
2010
4.37 | 14 ratings
Ipsissimus (with The Moonchild Trio)
2010
2.71 | 7 ratings
Late Works (with Fred Frith)
2010
3.71 | 7 ratings
Dictée/Liber Novus
2010
4.00 | 18 ratings
The Goddess - Music for the Ancient of Days
2010
3.88 | 5 ratings
Filmworks XXIV: The Nobel Prizewinner
2010
3.43 | 7 ratings
What Thou Wilt
2010
4.67 | 20 ratings
Interzone
2010
3.25 | 9 ratings
Nova Express
2011
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Satyr's Play - Cerberus
2011
3.00 | 2 ratings
Enigmata
2011
3.40 | 5 ratings
At the Gates of Paradise
2011
3.13 | 8 ratings
A Dreamers Christmas
2011
4.04 | 16 ratings
Mount Analogue
2012
3.88 | 5 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes
2012
3.83 | 16 ratings
Nosferatu
2012
4.44 | 16 ratings
Templars-In Sacred Blood
2012
3.20 | 5 ratings
The Hermetic Organ
2012
2.25 | 4 ratings
Rimbaud
2012
3.17 | 6 ratings
A Vision In Blakelight
2012
2.67 | 3 ratings
Music And Its Double
2012
3.88 | 8 ratings
The Concealed
2012
3.50 | 2 ratings
Abraxas - Book of Angels Volume 19
2012
3.89 | 8 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: In Lambeth - Visions From The Walled Garden Of William Blake
2013
3.00 | 2 ratings
Shir Hashirim
2013
3.20 | 5 ratings
Filmworks XXV-City Of Slaughter/Schmatta/Beyond The Infinite
2013
1.00 | 1 ratings
Lemma
2013
3.29 | 8 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: The Mysteries
2013
3.77 | 4 ratings
On The Torment Of Saints, The Casting Of Spells And The Evocation Of Spirits
2013
3.89 | 9 ratings
Dreamachines
2013
3.42 | 12 ratings
Abraxas - Psychomagia
2014
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Alchemist
2014
2.33 | 3 ratings
The Hermetic Organ vol. 2-St. Paul's Chapel
2014
3.00 | 2 ratings
In The Hall Of Mirrors
2014
2.33 | 3 ratings
Myth And Mythopoeia
2014
3.67 | 3 ratings
On Leaves of Grass
2014
3.67 | 3 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: The Testament of Solomon
2014
3.33 | 3 ratings
Valentine's Day
2014
3.84 | 6 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: Transmigration of the Magus
2014
3.83 | 5 ratings
The Dream Membrane (with David Chaim Smith & Bill Laswell)
2014
2.33 | 3 ratings
The Hermetic Organ Vol. 3-St. Paul's Hall, Huddersfield
2015
3.44 | 5 ratings
Hen to Pan
2015
4.56 | 13 ratings
Simulacrum
2015
3.07 | 9 ratings
Pellucidar / A Dreamers Fantabula
2015
3.80 | 5 ratings
Simulacrum - The True Discoveries Of Witches And Demons
2015
3.83 | 6 ratings
Simulacrum - Inferno
2015
3.67 | 3 ratings
Cerberus: The Book of Angels Volume 26
2015
2.67 | 3 ratings
Madrigals
2016
2.75 | 4 ratings
The Hermetic Organ vol. 4 St. Bart's
2016
3.80 | 5 ratings
Flaga: The Book Of Angels Volume 27
2016
3.93 | 16 ratings
Simulacrum - The Painted Bird
2016
3.50 | 6 ratings
Simulacrum - 49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable Life and Times of Gilles de Rais
2016
3.86 | 9 ratings
The Mockingbird
2016
2.09 | 4 ratings
Sacred Visions
2016
4.00 | 41 ratings
Simulacrum - The Garden Of Earthly Delights
2017
3.33 | 3 ratings
The Interpretation Of Dreams
2017
4.00 | 10 ratings
Midsummer Moons
2017
3.50 | 8 ratings
Insurrection
2018
3.63 | 8 ratings
Insurrection: Salem 1692
2018
5.00 | 3 ratings
Abraxas - Masada Book Three - The Book Beri'ah - Gevurah: Severity
2018
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Gnostic Trio: The Book Beri'ah Vol 7 - Netzach
2019
5.00 | 2 ratings
Sofia Rei & JC Maillard: Masada Book 3: The Book Beri'ah Vol. 1 - Keter
2019
3.13 | 5 ratings
The Hierophant
2019
3.83 | 6 ratings
Nove Cantici per Francesco D'Assisi
2019
4.50 | 2 ratings
Cat O'Nine Tails / The Dead Man / Memento Mori / Kol Nidre
2019
2.75 | 4 ratings
Tractatus Musico-Philosophicus
2019
4.00 | 2 ratings
The Hermetic Organ Vol.6 - For Edgar Allan Poe
2019
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Hermetic Organ Vol. 7 - St. John The Divine
2019
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Hermetic Organ Vol. 8 - For Antonin Artaud
2019
4.00 | 4 ratings
Encomia
2019
3.60 | 5 ratings
Virtue
2020
4.14 | 7 ratings
Calculus
2020
3.88 | 8 ratings
Baphomet
2020
3.00 | 2 ratings
Les Maudits
2020
5.00 | 2 ratings
Gnosis: The Inner Light
2021
5.00 | 1 ratings
Heaven and Earth Magick
2021
5.00 | 2 ratings
Teresa de Ávila
2021
4.00 | 2 ratings
Chaos Magick
2021
5.00 | 1 ratings
Parables
2021
4.50 | 2 ratings
Nostradamus: The Death of Satan
2021
5.00 | 2 ratings
Meditations on the Tarot
2021
5.00 | 3 ratings
The Ninth Circle: Orpheus in the Underworld
2021
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Cleansing (with Bill Laswell)
2022
4.00 | 3 ratings
A Garden of Forking Paths
2022
4.67 | 3 ratings
Perchance to Dream
2022
4.50 | 2 ratings
Spinoza
2022

JOHN ZORN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.86 | 7 ratings
More News For Lulu (with George Lewis / Bill Frisell)
1992
3.00 | 2 ratings
Downtown Lullaby (John Zorn / Wayne Horvitz / Elliott Sharp / Bobby Previte)
1998
4.70 | 4 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 2: Milford Graves / John Zorn
2004
3.50 | 4 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 3: Locus Solus
2004
3.40 | 5 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 8: Wadada Leo Smith / Susie Ibarra / John Zorn
2004
2.67 | 3 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 9: The Classic Guide To Strategy Volume Three
2004
2.12 | 6 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 10: Yamataka Eye / John Zorn
2005
1.25 | 4 ratings
The Stone: Issue Three (with Lou Reed/Laurie Anderson)
2008
2.50 | 2 ratings
The Song Project Live at Le Poisson Rouge
2015
5.00 | 2 ratings
Beyond Good and Evil: Simulacrum Live
2020
0.00 | 0 ratings
John Zorn's Olympiad, Vol. 2: Fencing 1978
2022

JOHN ZORN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.00 | 5 ratings
A Bookshelf On Top Of The Sky: 12 Stories About John Zorn (Claudia Heuermann)
2004

JOHN ZORN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.95 | 3 ratings
Film Works 1986-1990
1990
4.00 | 1 ratings
The John Zorn Radio Hour
1990
3.33 | 6 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volumes One & Two
1996
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Parachute Years, 1977-1980
1997
3.44 | 9 ratings
Godard/Spillane
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works Anthology - 20 Years Of Soundtrack Music
2005
5.00 | 2 ratings
The Dreamers-The Gentle Side
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Song Project
2014
5.00 | 1 ratings
John Zorn's Bagatelles (Vol. 1-4)
2021
5.00 | 1 ratings
John Zorn's Bagatelles (Vol. 5-8)
2021

JOHN ZORN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Trip Coaster
1989
0.00 | 0 ratings
Earache (split with Napalm Death)
1990
0.00 | 0 ratings
A Dreamers Christmas
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Yoko Ono & John Zorn
2015

JOHN ZORN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Garden of Forking Paths by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2022
4.00 | 3 ratings

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A Garden of Forking Paths
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Heart of the Matter

4 stars This is a new instalment in the prolonged saga of collaborations that John Zorn periodically proposes to an elite of top notch instrumentalists who are entrusted to visit his musical concepts. Now comes the turn for guitarists, and once again the guitar and brilliance of Bill Frisell is here to lead the trio proceedings.

The album title refers to a well-known short story by Jorge Luis Borges (El Jardín De Senderos Que Se Bifurcan) which is a particularly accomplished variation on a prime topic in Borgean narrative: labyrinths. There are also a nod to Samuel Beckett in the opener, which presents an appropriately intrincate intertwined design given by the trio interplay. The Secret Mirror is more like a curve ball, since it's a fictive stage play depicted in another Borges short story, An Examination Of The Work Of Herbert Quain (Examen De La obra De Herbert Quain). This is a track verging into contemporary chamber music a la Oregon, with great taste for it. In the same Borgean vein we find also Circular Ruins (Las Ruinas Circulares), reminding the League Of Crafty Guitarists style, The Zahir (perhaps the calmest track), The Encounter, and finally Orbus Tertius (Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius), a story about a conspiracy of schollars who write and insidiously spread an encyclopedia about an invented universe, which takes the place of the actual one in the end. Also appropriately, this is the most angular moment for the trio, and a high mark for their musicianship in this album.

In short, very good instrumental music with provocative literary references, there's a certain air to the guitaristic passages in Oregon's music, particularly in the jazzier moments (which are many).

 Yankees (with Derek Bailey & George Lewis) by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1982
1.81 | 7 ratings

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Yankees (with Derek Bailey & George Lewis)
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck

2 stars Gurgle! Fart! Spit! Splat! Splunk!

The at times minimal, at times cacophonous, Avant-garde Jazz stylings of Mr. John ZORN, featuring here Derek BAILEY (guitar) and George LEWIS (trombone). Released in 1982, this is... a world to itself.

These are like musical scrawlings. Like scratches of ideas, etched into a bizarre little disc. 5 songs. They are as follows:

1. "City City City": scratching, scurrying, randomness, pings, pig squeals, meandering. Do you want full sentences, or what? I don't know what I can offer you here.

2. "The Legend of Enos Slaughter": now with more squeals(!), now with more scurrying randomness(!); Is the trombone the voice of this Enos Slaughter, or just farts? I got nothin'. Avant-garde Jazz, though I've tried (and succeeded with, in part; Hello Dave HOLLAND, John SURMAN, Roscoe MITCHELL, etc.), is not really in my wheelhouse (or understanding).

3. "Who's On First?": The shortest piece on here at just around 3 minutes. What is there to say that I haven't already? (Sorry?)

4. "On Golden Pond": And from the shortest track, we get to this, the longest track at nearly 18 minutes (and if this was on LP, as I assume, they must have really stretched its sides thin...). A few words here: rattle-tat-tat, gurgles, sawing, struggling, more farting, bubbling and more gurgling. Actually calls to mind some of the weird *SNORK* sounds made by Zappa and Co. on Lumpy Gravy and We're Only In It For The Money. We actually also get some of our first bits of what I would consider melody! Neat! /s

5. "The Warning Track": more meandering, more squeaking and squawking, what I'm unsure are vocalizations or the sound of lost horns. Have I mentioned farting in this review yet? I want to make clear, here and now, these are not real, actual farts.

So... the consensus so far, I'm going to have to agree. Is this music? Of course! Is it bizarre? Oh yeah... Who on here, at least, is going to be interested in this collection of songs? Not too many. And to those who, as I have, decide to venture here, best of luck to you.

 Ipsissimus (with The Moonchild Trio) by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.37 | 14 ratings

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Ipsissimus (with The Moonchild Trio)
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars This is the fifth album which features The Moonchild Trio, which consists of Michael Patton, Trevor Dunn and Joey Baron performing John Zorn compositions, headed over by Zorn himself. Typically, Zorn doesn't play in any of the other albums by The Moonchild Trio, but this time around he brings his crazy saxophone along for the party along with guitarist Marc Ribot.

If you are already familiar with The Moonchild Trio, you already know what to expect here: Patton's crazy wordless vocalizations which would murder a normal singer to perform, Dunn's amazing bass work and Baron's progressive and unpredictable drumming. The music is anything but predictable or normal, can be rather chaotic and sounds like nothing you've ever heard, but this time around, with Ribot joining in, things get more angular, heavy and dark than ever before.

The first track "Seven Sigils" kicks off with simply the rhythm section, bass and drums churning out an ever changing riff, and you might be fooled into thinking you are listening to some great heavy progressive music, but then Patton comes in and everything just goes nuts. At one point, Patton's vocals soar up to unnatural heights, but when it comes down from the stratosphere, it's no longer Patton singing, but Zorn's strangled saxophone somehow got substituted without anyone noticing. That's how crazy it is. The insanity continues with Patton's tongue wagging sounds, Zorn's tortured sax and pounding bass and drums that will make anyone sit up and take notice. It's not always chaotic as things do get grounded from time to time, but soon goes off into left field again before you know it.

Ribot's guitar doesn't show up until the next track "The Book of Los". It brings the track in with a nice softer sound and Zorn brings in the piano to help out. Soon Patton starts to vocalize, but is using a lot of restraint this time at first. The rest of the band soon joins in and the main feeling is quite pensive and reflective, that is until about halfway in to the track when the guitar starts to go AWOL from this and Ribot demonstrates that he fits right into this crazy improvisation. At this point, Patton (not to be outdone) suddenly scares the listener to death with a crazy scream and then there is no return from the insanity after this.

It's this kind of thing you can expect from this album, a lot of crazy improvisational sections and also a lot of level- headed sections where things might resemble normalcy for certain brief sections. There are three tracks called "Apparitions" which are avant-garde improvisational tracks spread throughout the album and these are typically shorter tracks lasting about 4 minutes each of discord and such. You will notice, though, that this album a bit heavier than even most of The Moonchild Trio's albums, more in a metal vein than ever before. You'll notice this in "Supplicant" which might even fool you into thinking you are listening to extreme experimental metal. This one is probably the most accessible of the tracks, one that will win over the metal afficianados, with the heavy guitar and bass riffs and Patton's unusual growling/screaming/squealing. But then, you also hear the amazing songwriting skills of Zorn stand out on tracks like "Warlock" and "Tabula Smaragdina", the latter features a great bass and drum duet to open it up.

Is it possible that all of this chaos and noise can be considered a masterpiece? Yes it can. If you don't know how, then you have never heard Zorn and The Moonchild Trio, but this is probably my favorite album from them. There is so much going on here, and it's actually not hard to pick it out even if you don't like metal or avant prog. This album is quite amazing and can only be best explained by listening to it. I will say it may not be to everyone's taste mostly because of Patton's crazy singing, but you have to marvel at his talent if nothing else. I doubt if there are many people that can sing like this and survive with their voice intact. This is a masterpiece if there ever was one.

 Hen to Pan by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.44 | 5 ratings

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Hen to Pan
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars The album "Hen to Pan" belongs in John Zorn's "21st Century Classical Music" series, so, if you are looking for extreme music on this one, you won't find it. To understand Zorn's discography, you have to understand that it encompasses many different series, sub-projects and groupings, so in that respect, it is much different than many of the other artists in the Archives, and thus, it can also be quite confusing. Without some background on each album, you can never know what you are getting into, which is why, up front, I wanted to mention that this belongs in the classical music department, even though it is still quite avant garde.

In this episode of John Zorn's discography, we get some chamber-style music that consists of two cellos, piano, violin and drums. But, this is quite different from what you expect from chamber music from the baroque, classical and romantic periods. Rather, it's from the 21st century, so it's going to be progressive as far as classical music is concerned. Most will consider it chaotic and noisy. However, knowing a bit about what is going on here will maybe make things a little easier to understand.

First, the basics. Throughout these 5 tracks on this album, only one performer remains constant on all tracks, and that is cellist Jay Campbell. This is the person that Zorn wanted to focus on this album, as he was considered to soon be a "new music superstar" according to a blurb from the Tzadik label. The music on this album is dark and somewhat difficult for the layman to listen to, and, unlike much popular music, will take time and insight to really appreciate. The music hearkens back to Zorn's earlier chamber music, except here it is much more aggressive.

The album has three versions of the composition "Ouroboros" which above all else, is a work written for two cellos. It starts off with the Trio Version 1 which features not only Campbell on cello, but also Michael Nicolas, who will be the 2nd cellist on all three versions of "Ouroboros". The third person in this trio is Tyshawn Sorey on drums, who plays on both "trio" versions featured on the album. For those that don't know, the ouroboros is an ancient symbol that depicts a serpent eating its own tail. Just because there are three versions here doesn't mean the music is a complete repeat of something you've already heard. Much like Zappa's classical music, and much of 21st century neo-classical music for that matter, the performers have a lot of freedom as long as they play within a certain range, style or dynamic. So getting 3 versions of "Ouroboros" might not be as redundant as you might think. The 3 versions make up tracks 1, 3 and 5, 1 and 3 bookend the album with both trio versions, while track 3 is the duo version with only the two cellos, no drums.

The sound of the first trio version begins without warning, instantly with the cellists sawing away at the high notes of their instruments and the drums frantically pushing them forward. However, the sections are dynamic, ranging from pianissimo to double forte without any regard to convention. Some places are quite fast and dramatic while other places are pensive and quiet. This is chamber music on steroids. The 2nd track is "Occams Razor" which features Campbell's cello accompanied by Steve Gosling on piano. This track is formed in the style of a canon of sorts, not quite as chaotic, but with some very fast passages where the cello and piano play together almost impossibly, note for note, only to separate off on their own interesting tangents, sometimes going quite wild and other times pensive and sort of a dissonant pastoral which can be just as unsettling as the louder sections. It's definitely a different feel from the previous track, but the timing is at 9 minutes, just like the previous track. The 2nd version of "Ouroboros" comes next, this time as the duo version, only the two cellists, Campbell and Nicolas, without drums this time. It's interesting to hear the two cellos playing against each other, especially when one plays high notes and the other plays pizzicato low notes. It's almost more argumentative sounding but also playful at times without the drums and some sections have a lot of percussive sound to the playing (especially the picking parts). The mutilated melody fragmentations seem to stand out a lot more too.

The 4th track is called "The Aristos" (subtitled "Ten Metaphysical Ambiguities for Violin, Cello and Piano"). You get Campbell on cello and Gosling on piano again, but this time joined by Chris Otto on violin. This is basically what it says it is, 10 strange shorter works together on one track that adds up to over 13 minutes. These short works are separated by space and the style of each is quite different from each other, so it's fairly easy to discern one from another. There's plenty of dynamic variety on this track, feeling like moods. The last track is the second trio version of "Ouroboros". This seems to me to be a lot more peppy and playful with some noticeable variations. However, many of the differences might not be apparent right away, but will come after listening more often.

Granted, I understand that this type of music might not be for everyone. However, the performances are amazing and very technically difficult. The music also becomes more appealing the more you listen to it. Those that don't like neo- classical styles will probably have a hard time with it, but I can attest that the music is quite entertaining, colorful and enjoyable. Also, the production is perfect, with each instrumental line equally mixed. Although it may seem like noise to some, this music is quite complex and not easy to compose, so how Zorn can continually put out complex music and record it to be able to put out several albums a year is beyond me. Yet, everything he does has a lot of quality and complexity, it's like it is second nature to him. Anyway, this is quite an excellent album for the style of music that it is, yet even though it is progressive and avant garde, it is classical, so I can't say it's a progressive rock masterpiece, even though it is a neo-classical masterpiece. 4 stars.

 Locus Solus by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.11 | 18 ratings

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Locus Solus
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars Named after the 1914 French novel by Raymond Roussel, LOCUS SOLUS was one of JOHN ZORN's earliest recordings originally released in 1983 as a double album on the Rift label and then remastered and re-released on CD in 1991 on the Japanese late Eva in 1991 with several bonus tracks and then picked up again by ZORN's own Tzadik label and released a final time in 1995. As a seeker of adventurous musical experiences, i sniff out weirdness like dog treats but once in a while something so strange and so bizarre randomly falls into my lap that i have to sit back and go - whooooooooaaaaaahhhhhh! What did i just hear?

JOHN ZORN of course is well known for his avant-garde and frenetic free jazz workouts but LOCUS SOLUS is fairly weird even by ZORN's standards which means that those inured to only traditional forms of music will refer to this as pure noise and those who crave such wild manic music experiences will take them to the promised land of crazy unhinged sonic delight. The 68 minute run of pure mindf.u.ckery is roughly divided into four parts with different lineups. The bizarre nature of LOCUS SOLUS provided the blueprint of what would become the band Painkiller and after a listen to this it's obvious that Mike Patton was so enamored with this album that he adopted many of those weird spastic sounds in Mr Bungle and even borrowed the album title "Disco Volante" from one of the tracks.

This is one of those extreme avant-garde albums from ZORN with anarchic compositional structures, random electronic sounds, processed spoken word poetry, grindcore, freeform jazz saxophone squawks that sound like a coop of tortured chickens and excessive guitar noise. While the noise rock scene in Japan is considered ground zero for that kind of thing, it seems like LOCUS SOLUS is the epicenter that reverberated across the world. The first eight tracks feature Peter Blegvad on vocals although they are so processed and distorted that it sounds like a manic robot. There are several drummers on board with tribal drum parts as well as extreme metal bombast. Likewise there are turntable effects and wild array of other sounds ranging from whistling to clarinet solos and organ runs.

This is a very demanding album for sure as there is absolutely no recognizable forms of music to be heard. This is about as avant-garde and thinking outside of the box as you can imagine and all the more remarkable for its energetic prowess and that it was released as early as 1983 as it sounds like something that should've emerged in the mid-90s. The punk infused explosive tracks are succinct with most around the 2 minute mark or less but at over an hour's worth of this it is quite enervating. This is the stuff avant-garde dreams are made of but for those not accustomed to this degree of musical freedom, this will come off as jarring and completely startling. Not for everyone but i totally dig this twisted unapologetic noise-fest.

 The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.88 | 5 ratings

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The Gnostic Trio: The Gnostic Preludes
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

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.

 The Gnostic Trio: The Mysteries by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.29 | 8 ratings

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The Gnostic Trio: The Mysteries
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Heart of the Matter

3 stars Well, possibly you already know that John Zorn is as much a contemporay "serious" composer as a musical chameleon that goes through a wide variety of genres and styles from one album to another. And if he's capable of doing this, is because the ever rotating collaboration of the most amazing artists in each field of music.

In this album, the purely instrumental trio, in which stands out the guitarist Bill Frisell, takes us to a territory akin not to jazz, but rather (in my ears at least) to the hipnotic suggestion of kraut-rockers Popol Vuh, a soundscape generated by a crystal-clear exposition and continuous recombination of minimal melodic and rythmic cells that grow and evolve in a larger organism: first each track, then the entire record.

Not a "desert island record", but a worthy addition to the open-minded progger collection.

 Simulacrum by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.56 | 13 ratings

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Simulacrum
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Forum & Site Admin Group Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

5 stars Trying to follow or understand John Zorn's discography can be quite confusing. The fact that his album history is quite extensive, which can be verified by looking up his name in the Archives, is one thing, but the fact that he often works with other established bands like "Secret Chiefs 3" or "Abraxas" or that he has assembled separate groups on his own such as "Moonchild Trio" (with Mike Patton) to meet standards to play certain compositions he has written makes it even more confusing. Add to that his many different album series like "Filmworks" and the "Masada Books", one can easily get confused. Each album is also a surprise as far as how it will sound as Zorn has pretty much touched on every genre out there, but he brings his own avant-prog style to everything he does, sometimes heavy on the improvisation and other times very structured.

"Simulacrum" is one of those bands that Zorn assembled in order to play some of his compositions. This band has released 7 albums under Zorn. The band consists of 3 musicians; John Medeski from "Medeski, Martin, and Wood" (organ), Matt Hollenberg from "Cleric" (guitar), and Kenny Grohowski from "Abraxas" (drums). This is the core band, however some of the albums they have recorded also have guest members such as Trey Spruance from Secret Chiefs 3. On the eponymous album however, only the core band is contributing. Zorn does not contribute any instrumentation, but instead, as in a lot of the albums listed in his discography, he is composer and producer.

The basic sound of this album seems to hover around the progressive metal style with some math rock and jazz fusion thrown in, but, if you notice, there is no bass. The organ tends to take on this role along with the fact that the organ also drives alot of the sound here, and that is what makes this whole thing unique. Hollenberg does take the lead on the guitar more often then not, but the mix with the organ is a sound in and of itself. Though the music is mostly from the metal realms, it isn't afraid to explore other territories.

From the beginning with the 12 minute "The Illusionist" we are thrown into an ever shifting kaleidoscope of styles, beginning with a chunky guitar laden sound with revolving meters to an almost psychedelic and atmospheric organ section that suddenly sees the organ and guitar working together to hold it all somewhere between chaotic feedback and guitar strangulation and jazzy, yet bluesy organ trying to hold it all down. Yet, it flows together seamlessly. And, of course, you can expect the unexpected with dissonant passages and enticing, unique harmonics, since, after all, this is John Zorn. We even slip into a uplifting "Deep Purple" style organ passage that ends up slipping right back out to a chaotic back and forth interplay with the guitar and organ while the drums try to fill in for the atmospherics, but soon gives up and just goes wild. It suddenly shifts at about the 8 minute mark and becomes peacefully flowing, but soon builds to a heavy rock sound again with a nice organ and screechy guitar chords behind it. The music continues to move from fairly standard heaviness to crazy over-the- top wildness without even taking a breath. Zorn is one of the best composers/musicians that can marry rock, metal, jazz and classical styles and he does it so easily while so many bands out there end up just stumbling around with the usual sounds that they have been trying to work with for decades. Zorn does it like a slap to their faces, and in the meantime, he goes mostly unrecognized and ignored by those that should praise his talents.

The next 4 tracks are shorter tracks lasting around 3 ? 5 minutes. All are instrumental, of course. "Mamarath" works off of a repeating guitar riff while other layers of guitar, organ and drums whirl around increasing and decreasing in intensity. The organ will suddenly run off the rails with everything, but after suddenly stopping, the guitar riff brings it all back to earth again. "Snakes and Ladders" is more atmospheric and mysterious sounding with the organ floating around, but then a sudden complex rhythm pattern brings in the guitar and things soon intensify again. The guitar and organ copy each other on a repetitive riff and then the guitar takes off again but is suddenly stopped by an abrasive organ. There's more "normal" jamming then sudden destruction with chaotic sections passing back and forth like its all natural. "Alterities" is like the melding of several short passages glued together and often interrupted by sudden pauses and crazy progressive phrasing, dissonant noise and such, at times becoming almost comical. "Paradigm Shift" starts with a droning organ, but is soon joined by a boiling guitar riff and crazy drum fills. As it goes on, the guitar and organ become more free to wander and provide sudden blasts of power.

The last track is the almost 13 minute "The Divine Comedy". The wild shifting of genres continues here, of course it is all over- seen by the metallic feel, but it amazingly slips from jazz to tech metal, sometimes even merging both, with hardly any effort at all. It's wild, it's chaotic and it's awesome. As I listen, my cat lays there looking at the speakers wondering, "How did that just happen?" If you are wondering if it is all just noise and chaos, you are wrong. The music still takes time to breathe, and even falls into a nice peaceful section in the middle that will make you think you suddenly got transported to church as the organ rolls along with minimal guitar. Suddenly the guitar and drums go on a tech rampage chewing all of this up and spitting it out. The most amazing thing about all of this is how it all just flows and fits together.

So, here we have another amazing collaboration with John Zorn and another group of talented musicians. There are to date six total studio albums with Simulacrum playing Zorn compositions and now a new live album released in January 2020, which should be pretty amazing if this album is any indication. It seems, however, that anyone can go into the Zorn discography and pull out something that will appeal to them. As far as Simulacrum, lovers of metal, fusion and avant rock will find something to easily love and be amazed at. The music is quite heavy and will appeal more to those that love the more complex sounds of post metal, progressive metal and dashes of classic prog and jazz fusion.

 In Search Of The Miraculous by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.89 | 29 ratings

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In Search Of The Miraculous
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The fourth way according to John Zorn.

Very much in tune with its respective sources´detached sobriety, John Zorn approaches this highly complex, straight forward & unresolved crossword puzzle, sound wise speaking of course, by facing its mysteries up front with heartfelt sonic understandings, which stand close to to its roots´ unpublished recreations, but nevertheless, leaving his own reactions intact. And when it comes to music composition and an original approach, well Mr. Zorn´s In Search Of The Miraculous (2010) , can actually do the walk it takes to do the talk.

Expecting great audiences for such a clean, faithful & spirited performance of, otherwise, ignored knowledge, would be like counting from one to two until you die & realize there was a three.

Music wise, expect an unsuspected modern Jazz, 4 piece ensemble (no guitar) & latin influenced, almost masterpiece, which grows deeper, as far as you get the clue where it is really heading and eventually, if hooked, can balance the thrill of why it ends up meeting such strange stylistic encounters, which if anything, will make you kind of think of the world as an upside down possibility, how universal and surprisingly odd it will eventually turn out to be & like it or not will be.

Even I , (who almost by nature have an involuntary allergic reaction against artificial latin moods), am really thrilled, if anything, this material is as close as anyone outside this vibe can come around to turn into his own, and as told , the world as an upside down possibility, as a figure of speach of course (lol), (Don´t worry, this stuff has survived the worst and still speaks for some few,... but more than enough) is still around.

Forget the talk, just let it flow, if not well..........more for us.

****/*

 Angelus Novus by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.03 | 11 ratings

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Angelus Novus
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars After a fairly fruitful musical career established in the 1980s, JOHN ZORN really got productive all throughout the 90s especially around 1995 when he released five albums. The ensuing years would prove to be equally or even more productive and ZORN was always eager to take detours from his avant-garde jazz comfort zone. One of the lesser known aspects of his musical career ZORN was also a classical chamber ensemble composer but many of these compositions remained in the vault for many years to come.

ANGELUS NOVUS which was released in 1998 (the second of eight released that year) was the first album in a series that documented ZORN's interest in the world of classical music. The album which consists of four lengthy compositions spanned three decades. 'For Your Eyes Only' the opening chamber symphony was originally composed in 1988, the piano torture of 'Carney' in 1989 and the title track the newest of the lot was crafted in 1993. The two part 'Christabel' dates back all the way back to 1972 when ZORN was just a student and was inspired by the romantic mystic poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

ANGELUS NOVUS is yet another album where ZORN steps out of the limelight as a musician and occupies the role of executive producer but has always been quite unique in the fact that he releases these albums under his own name. Stephen Duty is the conductor, producer, artistic director and pianist of the project while the other instruments are performed by the Callithumpian Consort of the New England Conservatory who mastered the spontaneous jittery angularities of ZORN's restless nature and pull it off flawlessly. 'Christabel' the oldest piece on board is a piece for five flutes and a viola and a clear tribute to the European 20th century classical masters.

'For Your Eyes Only' features a 20-piece ensemble and wends and winds through various obtuse passages with occasional bursts of cartoon music and also a snippet from the occasional melody from the classical history books. The track skirts along for almost 14 minutes but keeps things spiced up to give it various flavors that keep changing. 'Carny' is a 13 minute piano performance by Stephen Drury. This avant-garde piece exemplifies his mastery of precision and sounds like a mix of Chopin-esque technicalities with the dissonant abstractness of jazz virtuoso Cecil Taylor. This is definitely difficult listening if there is any but the rhythmic drive provides an underpinning of tangible compositional fortitude.

While the first half of the album is fairly engaging, the latter half is comprised of the title track divided into five different suites. It is very much a fragmented work that takes on many themes. It was dedicated to Walter Benjamin and encompasses both 20th century avant-garde classical flavors as well as inserting various traditional Jewish themes. It is a rather slow burner and the least interesting part as it sort of slinks around aimlessly although the execution is brilliantly performed. Overall it's just missing that extra magic that gives it an engaging run. The tracks seem to lack a cohesive connecting tissue that makes it all seem relevant. Still though not a horrible piece by any means.

While ANGELUS NOVUS is a grand execution of ZORN's compositional fortitude in the world of avant-garde classical music, i can't say this is his best works by any means. While it's above average for a jazz musician's ability to effortlessly take on a completely different genre of musical expression, the second half of the album just comes off as way too sleepy and ho hum to make this album absolutely essential however for diehard ZORN fans, this is surely a worthy addition to the collection of countless albums that he has cranked out. The first four tracks alone are interesting historical perspectives of ZORN's dabbling in this saxophone-free style of music. While this won't go down in history as one of classical music's crowning achievements, ZORN did successfully bring new perspectives into its purview and this does make great background music for when you're feeling really disconnected from reality.

Thanks to Joren for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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