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JOHN ZORN

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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John Zorn biography
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 music (including "Cartoon/S&M"), solo music fo...
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Testament of SolomonTestament of Solomon
Tzadik 2014
Audio CD$9.77
$15.73 (used)
On Leaves of GrassOn Leaves of Grass
Tzadik 2014
Audio CD$9.22
$15.73 (used)
Naked CityNaked City
Nonesuch / Elektra 1992
Audio CD$8.57
$1.79 (used)
In Lambeth: Visions From the Walled Garden ofIn Lambeth: Visions From the Walled Garden of
Tzadik 2013
Audio CD$9.25
$15.73 (used)
AlchemistAlchemist
Tzadik 2014
Audio CD$11.12
$19.72 (used)
Filmworks Xxiv: Nobel Prizewinner - O.S.T.Filmworks Xxiv: Nobel Prizewinner - O.S.T.
Soundtrack
Tzadik 2010
Audio CD$9.26
$7.75 (used)
InterzoneInterzone
Tzadik 2010
Audio CD$9.28
$17.19 (used)
Zorn: Fragmentations Prayers & InterZorn: Fragmentations Prayers & Inter
Tzadik 2014
Audio CD$11.04
$14.00 (used)
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JOHN ZORN - BEST OF FILMWORKS: 20 YEARS OF SOUNDTRACK MUSIC NEW CD US $22.00 Buy It Now 45m 39s
ELEGY by Barbara Chaffe / Mike Patton / John Zorn (CD, 1995, Tzadik) Disc Only US $7.99 [0 bids]
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4h 30m
Naked City by John Zorn (Composer) Jazz (CD, 1990 Nonesuch) Rare OOP (Disc Only) US $3.99 [0 bids]
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4h 32m
Nani Nani by John Zorn & Yamantaka Eye (CD, Sep-1995, Tzadik Records) Disc Only US $6.49 [0 bids]
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4h 32m
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4h 39m
JOHN ZORN Filmworks VII: Cynical Hysterie Hour 1997 Tzadik Records Kiriko Kubo US $3.99 Buy It Now 5h 35m
Live at the Knitting Factory by John Zorn's Cobra (CD, 1991) Rare OOP, Disc Only US $41.99 [0 bids]
10h 46m
John Zorn - Music & Its Double CD US $18.20 Buy It Now 13h 10m
John Zorn - Filmworks Xii-Three Documentaries CD US $18.20 Buy It Now 13h 10m
John Zorn - At The Gates Of Paradise CD US $17.73 Buy It Now 13h 29m
John Zorn - Crucible CD US $18.11 Buy It Now 13h 29m
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(NAKED CITY-S/T)-John Zorn/avant-rock/free jazz New York supergroup-D4-LP US $214.18 Buy It Now 16h 8m
John Zorn, George Lewis, Yankees by Derek Bailey (CD, Mar-1998, Charly Records) US $8.00 [0 bids]
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16h 35m
Pat Metheny - Tap: John Zorn's Book Of Angels Vol 20 (NEW CD) US $21.16 Buy It Now 19h 55m
JOHN ZORN (COMPOSER) - THE HERMETIC ORGAN, VOL. 2 (702397831228) - NEW CD US $10.36 Buy It Now 19h 56m
JOHN ZORN TWO PICTURE DISCS: THE DREAMERS and A DREAMER'S CHRISTMAS RARE US $99.00 Buy It Now 21h 7m
John Zorn - Alhambra Love Songs [CD New] US $15.82 Buy It Now 21h 17m
John Zorn - Goddess-Music For The Ancient Of Day [CD New] US $13.31 Buy It Now 21h 17m
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JOHN ZORN - THE GODDESS: MUSIC FOR THE ANCIENT OF DAYS [DIGIPAK] - NEW CD US $13.33 Buy It Now 22h 8m
JOHN ZORN MASADA CHAMBER ENSEMBLES Bar Kokhbra CD 2 Disc Set 1996 Tzadik Records US $9.99 Buy It Now 1 day
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Lost in the Stars; music of Kurt Weill; tom waits; sting; lou reed; john zorn US $14.96 Buy It Now 1 day
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Missing Foundation LP original Boredoms Throbbing Gristle Swans John Zorn US $29.99 [0 bids]
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Hemophiliac 2 cd set! Signed! Mike Patton, John Zorn, Ikue Mori! Tzadik!! US $150.00 Buy It Now 1 day
THE Big Gundown LP John Zorn plays Ennio Morricone US $19.99 [0 bids]
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1 day
JOHN ZORN - FILMWORKS XIV: HIDING & SEEKING NEW CD US $22.00 Buy It Now 1 day
At the Gates of Paradise by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Sep-2011, Tzadik Records) US $10.38 Buy It Now 1 day
Nosferatu by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Apr-2012, Tzadik Records) US $12.44 Buy It Now 1 day
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Templars: In Sacred Blood [Digipak] by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, May-2012,... US $11.97 Buy It Now 1 day
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, John Zorn: FilmWorks XVII - Notes on Marie Menken Audio CD US $15.99 Buy It Now 2 days
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Bar Kokhba by John Zorn (CD, Aug-1996, 2 Discs, Tzadik Records), NM US $15.00 Buy It Now 2 days
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I Believe * Daniel Zamir CD 2008 Tzadik Records John Zorn US $12.95 Buy It Now 2 days
John Zorn/George Lewis/Bill Frisell: More News For Lulu (CD 1992) Switzerland US $28.00 Buy It Now 3 days
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3 days
David Moss Full House Fred Frith John Zorn Bill Laswell Arto Lindsay 1988 LP NM US $20.33 Buy It Now 3 days
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John Zorn - Masada-Live In Sevilla 2000 [CD New] US $13.31 Buy It Now 3 days
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3 days

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JOHN ZORN shows & tickets


  • John Zorn + Marc Ribot + Jesse Harris + more at Town Hall, New York on 27 Sep 2014
  • John Zorn: Royce Triple Threat Abraxas, Secret Chiefs 3 & Bladerunner on 2 May 2015
  • John Zorn: The Hermetic Organ - solo organ improvisations on 3 May 2015

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)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Environment For Sextet (with Andrea Centazzo, Eugene Chadbourne, Tom Cora, Toshinori Kondo, Polly Bradfield )
1979
1.23 | 3 ratings
Pool
1980
1.15 | 8 ratings
Archery
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Yankees (with Derek Bailey & George Lewis)
1982
2.13 | 10 ratings
Locus Solus
1983
3.00 | 3 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume One
1983
3.30 | 5 ratings
Ganryu Island (Michihiro Sato / John Zorn)
1985
2.00 | 2 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume Two
1985
3.05 | 16 ratings
The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays The Music Of Ennio Morricone
1986
3.72 | 15 ratings
Spillane
1987
3.34 | 13 ratings
Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman
1988
3.33 | 3 ratings
News for Lulu (with George Lewis / Bill Frisell)
1988
0.00 | 0 ratings
Cynical Hysterie Hour (Film Works VII)
1989
2.53 | 8 ratings
Elegy
1992
2.92 | 13 ratings
Kristallnacht
1993
3.75 | 5 ratings
The Art Of Memory (John Zorn / Fred Frith)
1995
2.50 | 2 ratings
First Recordings 1973
1995
2.75 | 8 ratings
Redbird
1995
3.00 | 2 ratings
Nani Nani (Dekoboko Hajime / Yamantaka Eye)
1995
2.00 | 6 ratings
The Book Of Heads
1995
1.67 | 3 ratings
Film Works II: Music For An Untitled Film By Walter Hill
1995
3.00 | 4 ratings
Film Works III: 1990-1995
1995
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works V: Tears Of Ecstasy
1996
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works VI: 1996
1996
2.09 | 4 ratings
Hockey
1997
1.05 | 2 ratings
Lacrosse
1997
2.96 | 6 ratings
New Traditions In East Asian Bar Bands
1997
2.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works IV: S/M + More
1997
3.08 | 5 ratings
Duras: Duchamp
1997
2.00 | 1 ratings
Euclid's Nightmare (John Zorn / Bobby Previte)
1997
2.16 | 6 ratings
Angelus Novus
1998
2.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works VIII:1997
1998
2.08 | 5 ratings
Aporias: Requia For Piano And Orchestra
1998
3.55 | 6 ratings
The Bribe - Variations And Extensions On Spillane
1998
2.05 | 6 ratings
Music For Children
1998
3.88 | 7 ratings
Taboo & Exile
1999
3.07 | 8 ratings
The String Quartets
1999
2.50 | 2 ratings
Xu Feng
2000
2.14 | 3 ratings
Cartoon S/M
2000
3.00 | 2 ratings
Film Works IX: Trembling Before G-d
2000
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works X: In The Mirror Of Maya Deren
2001
3.81 | 8 ratings
The Gift
2001
3.56 | 8 ratings
Madness, Love And Mysticism
2001
4.00 | 4 ratings
Songs From The Hermetic Theater
2001
3.02 | 6 ratings
IAO
2002
3.90 | 2 ratings
Film Works XI: 2002 Volume One - Under The Wing
2002
3.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works XII: 2002 Volume Two - Three Documentaries
2002
3.50 | 4 ratings
Film Works XIII: 2002 Volume Three - Invitation To A Suicide
2002
3.82 | 2 ratings
Film Works XIV: Hiding And Seeking
2003
3.02 | 7 ratings
Chimeras
2003
3.28 | 10 ratings
Magick
2004
2.00 | 1 ratings
Naninani II (Yamataka Eye / John Zorn)
2004
2.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works XV: Protocols Of Zion
2005
2.25 | 5 ratings
Rituals
2005
3.00 | 2 ratings
Film Works XVI: Working Man's Death
2005
4.00 | 4 ratings
Sanatorium Under The Sign Of The Hourglass
2005
3.02 | 7 ratings
Mysterium
2005
3.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works XVII: Notes On Marie Menken / Ray Bandar: A Life With Skulls
2006
2.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works XVIII: The Treatment
2006
2.17 | 4 ratings
From Silence to Sorcery
2007
4.37 | 8 ratings
Film Works XIX: The Rain Horse
2008
3.15 | 11 ratings
The Dreamers
2008
3.67 | 3 ratings
Filmworks XX: Sholem Aleichem
2008
4.00 | 1 ratings
Filmworks XXI: Belle de Nature/The New Rijksmuseum
2008
4.00 | 2 ratings
Filmworks XXII: The Last Supper
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Art Of Memory II (John Zorn / Fred Frith)
2008
3.00 | 3 ratings
Filmworks XXIII: El General
2009
3.54 | 8 ratings
Alhambra Love Songs
2009
3.62 | 34 ratings
O'o
2009
3.61 | 11 ratings
Femina
2009
3.68 | 33 ratings
In Search Of The Miraculous
2010
0.00 | 0 ratings
a child's adventures in the realms of the unreal
2010
3.91 | 3 ratings
Ipsissimus
2010
2.75 | 4 ratings
Late Works (with Fred Frith)
2010
3.09 | 3 ratings
Dictée/Liber Novus
2010
4.03 | 11 ratings
The Goddess - Music for the Ancient of Days
2010
4.00 | 3 ratings
Filmworks XXIV: The Nobel Prizewinner
2010
2.17 | 4 ratings
What Thou Wilt
2010
4.57 | 10 ratings
Interzone
2010
3.05 | 4 ratings
Nova Express
2011
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Satyr's Play - Cerberus
2011
2.00 | 1 ratings
Enigmata
2011
4.00 | 1 ratings
At the Gates of Paradise
2011
3.00 | 3 ratings
A Dreamers Christmas
2011
4.14 | 5 ratings
Mount Analogue
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Gnostic Preludes
2012
4.00 | 7 ratings
Nosferatu
2012
4.17 | 9 ratings
Templars-In Sacred Blood
2012
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Hermetic Organ
2012
3.00 | 1 ratings
Rimbaud
2012
4.00 | 3 ratings
A Vision In Blakelight
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
Music And Its Double
2012
4.67 | 3 ratings
The Concealed
2012
4.00 | 1 ratings
Filmworks XXV-City Of Slaughter/Schmatta/Beyond The Infinite
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
Lemma
2013
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Mysteries
2013
4.00 | 2 ratings
On the Torment of Saints, The Casting of Spells and the Evocation of Spirits
2013
4.00 | 4 ratings
Dreamachines
2013
5.00 | 1 ratings
In Lambeth - Visions From The Walled Garden Of William Blake
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
Shir Hashirim
2013
0.00 | 0 ratings
In The Hall Of Mirrors
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
Myth And Mythopoeia
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
On Leaves of Grass
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Testament of Solomon
2014
2.88 | 8 ratings
Psychomagia
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Alchemist
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Hermetic Organ vol. 2-St. Paul's Chapel
2014

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

4.00 | 1 ratings
More News For Lulu (with George Lewis / Bill Frisell)
1992
5.00 | 1 ratings
Downtown Lullaby (John Zorn / Wayne Horvitz / Elliott Sharp / Bobby Previte)
1998
4.86 | 2 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 2: Milford Graves / John Zorn
2004
2.18 | 3 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 3: Locus Solus
2004
3.00 | 3 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 8: Wadada Leo Smith / Susie Ibarra / John Zorn
2004
2.00 | 2 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 9: The Classic Guide To Strategy Volume Three
2004
2.50 | 4 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 10: Yamataka Eye / John Zorn
2005
2.00 | 1 ratings
The Stone: Issue Three (with Lou Reed/Laurie Anderson)
2008

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

4.50 | 2 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 | 2 ratings
Film Works 1986-1990
1990
0.00 | 0 ratings
The John Zorn Radio Hour
1990
2.14 | 3 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volumes One & Two
1996
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Parachute Years, 1977-1980
1997
3.33 | 3 ratings
Godard/Spillane
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Film Works Anthology - 20 Years Of Soundtrack Music
2005
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Dreamers-The Gentle Side
2010

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

0.00 | 0 ratings
Earache (split with Napalm Death)
1990

JOHN ZORN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Templars-In Sacred Blood by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.17 | 9 ratings

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Templars-In Sacred Blood
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by werbinox

5 stars This is the sixth release by John Zorn's Moonchild Trio (Mike Patton - Vocals, Trevor Dunn - Bass, Joey Baron - Drums) here augmented by John Medeski on Organ. Probably the most 'accessible' of all the Moonchild discs, it is still not for everyone. Not even most people. Mike Patton's chainsaw banshee wailing and screaming can clear a room in a heartbeat, and even inspire anger in some. If you have a sense of humor and an appreciation for unconventional vocals, he can be endlessly entertaining, funny, and astoundingly creative. The first Moonchild release, Songs Without Words, set the template for the five to follow, with Patton contributing non-verbal glossolalia-like Ur- Language vocalizations, screams, grunts, growls and mouth noises, over complex, unpredictable, at times chaotic sounding rhythmic excursions by Trevor Dunn's distorted bass and Joey Baron's inexhaustibly creative drumming. 'Six Litanies for Heliogabalus' arguably represents a pinnacle of this approach. 'Templars: In Sacred Blood' however, bucks the trend and takes a decisive step towards structure, and employs actual words for the first time on any Moonchild release. It is in fact as close to what one might call 'Prog Rock' as any work Zorn has ever produced, though still laced liberally with his characteristic, RIO-ish, free jazz approach to sonic chaos.

This music is thick with brooding, medieval atmospheres, as befits the subject matter - the legend of the Knights Templars, and their accusation by the Catholic Church of Baphomet / Devil Worship, which subsequently led to their persecution and near extinction (allegedly so that the Church could get the 'treasure' they thought the Knights had supposedly acquired) John Medeski's organ paints mysterious swaths of darkness in candle-lit monastic hallways over Baron and Dunn's jazzy rhythms while Patton whispers impressionistic poetry about alchemy and magick, alternating between Latin and English, suddenly lurching into dissonant, King Crimson-ish blasts of metal, Patton shrieking and screaming and roaring words of "murder!" "flames!" "rupture!" It is this characteristic see-sawing between delicate impressionistic medieval jazz and barbaric metal noise slabs that cause some to consider this 'more accessible' than the other ones (consistent structure as opposed to constant chaos) yet, as I discovered to my consternation, disturbs others to the breaking point. A couple of songs nearly sent my girlfriend into an anxiety attack. I thought she would appreciate the quiet sections, but nope, they just made her more nervous, waiting for the screaming to come back around. I cant play it for her anymore. Considering it involves both John Zorn and Mike Patton it was probably hopeless from the start!

This is the first Zorn disc I have ever fully loved, and I bought all the previous Moonchild discs because of it. To my ears, his music has never before been so arranged, so focused in its effect. He has the best musicians here to help him. Trevor Dunn and Joey Baron can do anything they want with bass and drums, and the addition of Medeski's organ adds an indescribable and unexpected beauty. For me, the music is never better than when Patton is reciting Zorn's graphic and evocative poetry (inspired by and dedicated to the works of Edgar Varese, Antonin Artaud, and Aleister Crowley) over the swirling vortex of sound this ensemble creates. Patton is the best, most interesting, most versatile vocalist around, and his wordless screaming and gibberish on "Heliogabalus' is a listening experience like no other, yet his effect here is intensified even further by the rhythmic / phonetic demands of reciting actual words over this music.

For the musically adventurous this is one of those great coaster rides that must be experienced all the way through. But the feint of heart beware: there is some dark, powerful magick at work in this music. Careful what you think about as you listen, for it may give you the power to manifest it, as befits, I suspect, Zorns' will and purpose.

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 Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.34 | 13 ratings

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Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

5 stars Review n° 208

John Zorn - Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman

The shape of grind to come.

As a saxophone player, I'm a fan of both Ornette Coleman and John Zorn. Ornette and Zorn shares too much with themselves. They were innovators in music and alto sax, sometimes (most of) people used to criticize them, but it wasn't any trouble for their capacity and creativity. I have been a member of a free-grind band when I was younger. I feel every music has a strong and deep connection, and the hc/grindcore fits perfect with jazz. Naked City (Zorn's masterpiece) is another definitive proof. Both genres are somehow "extreme". Here, the compositions of Ornette Coleman were taken to a disturbing direction. Like the original "Free Jazz" album, by Coleman, Spy vs Spy was recorded with different saxophonists improvising simultaneously in stereo: Tim Berne (fantastic out-jazz musician) on the left channel, John Zorn on the right. There's two drummers in the line-up.

This album is pure energy. Just check the first tracks and you will see how the band lead Ornette's Chronology to a higher level of musical density. The tracks aren't deformed, like some avant-garde covers, the theme is just the same, you feel exactly the same music as Coleman, but it sounds explosive, like "hey there, someones installed a bomb in a classic track, and it's exploding right now". The cover illustrations agreed. There's something like Carl Stalling again, or maybe Scott Bradley, a notorious random sense of comical violence.

An influential album. Awesome. It couldn't go wrong at all with Zorn and Berne playing Coleman.

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 On the Torment of Saints, The Casting of Spells and the Evocation of Spirits by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.00 | 2 ratings

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On the Torment of Saints, The Casting of Spells and the Evocation of Spirits
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

4 stars Review n° 207

John Zorn, november 2013 - On the Torment of Saints, The Casting of Spells and the Evocation of Spirits

Shakespeare, Witches, Museum... Zorn compositions and conceptual themes are always unusual. I appreciate this. His catalogue is huge, and featuring things like grindcore versions of jazz themes, avant garde classical music where violins suddenly play a short country riff (Cat O nine Tails), and pure noise improvisation. This is another chamber music experience. The scores for this album were played by talented musicians. And damn, it's great how the music works when classical combines with free jazz drumming.

The cover art is one of my favorites from all of his works. Not as good as Naked City's pics, featuring asian women, gangster gore or Maruo Suehiro. But it fits perfectly with the actual music. There are three works in this album: The Tempest: A Masque (11:20), All Hallows Eve (a suite in three pieces, something around 15 minutes), and The Temptations of St. Anthony (8 minutes). Make sure you read the liner notes.

If you enjoyed the math/avant chamber music presented here, you should look forward for Duras:Duchamp. Another chamber album by Zorn, deep dark and a good atmosphere.

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 The Book Of Heads by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1995
2.00 | 6 ratings

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The Book Of Heads
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

2 stars Review N' 206

John Zorn - The Book Of Heads

It's like some nice films. I watched it once. But I don't want to watch it twice.

Another album where John Zorn doesn't play anything. This album is another weird movement. I think Zorn used the "heads" to inspire the sick score of the album. 35 tracks played by Marc Ribot (guitar). First of all, you will have to understand what's happening. There's a lot of hidden techniques behind this work. Some of them: rubbing balloons on the guitar strings until they pop, holding talking dolls up to the microphone, pulling the guitar strings out of the bridge notch, hitting the strings with pencils, and playing with rice.

An intelligent album, but once more, there's only a few words to say about the Book of Heads. The album was made of very, VERY experimental and irregular tracks, without any electric instrument (I think so). It will be a valuable album for those like me, looking for different things. Not something to play again and again, though. Fans only.

I'm not the kind of reviewer who usually rates with half stars, but I say 2.5 stars for this album, actually.

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 Locus Solus by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.13 | 10 ratings

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Locus Solus
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by VOTOMS

2 stars Review n° 205

John Zorn - Locus Solus

Rock? Maybe. But totally in opposition. (A briefly feeling after looking at an abstract painting).

Locus Solus is a nice example of Zorn's early musical anarchy. Scratching sounds, Saxophone distinctive noises, random tribal drums, non-musical structure, a bunch of spoken words out of the rhythm (well, there's no rhythm at all)... Everything to turn any conservative musician into a diehard hater of his works. The grindcore/jazzcore experiments are there, sometimes I found something like that in the middle of the album, out of nowhere.

An interesting point: there's 38 tracks in the album, and still are lacking words to describe this album in a single review. It's very hard to translate this album in words, this is totally anti music, frenetic and hell. Hard listening. Interesting album cover, though.

Even funny, this album is somehow skippable. You can find better avant-garde ideas or insanity in other Zorn albums.

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 Dreamachines by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.00 | 4 ratings

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Dreamachines
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt

4 stars Factory like prolific and multi "style"oriented, composer performer, plays Jazz on this, 2013, "Dreamachines" project.

His own concept of Jazz, but it is still Jazz and I like it!

Very close to Art Tatum, Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich's Trio, energy and direction, he reinforces the dymamics and textures of the "modern Jazz" concept, with a depth of range, Tatum's trio could not think of, because in their days, recording techniques were not so sophisticated, but their "spirit" is breathed in this amazing record.

Never stopping intelligent and attractive melody lines, which are both delightful and menacing, in the best kind of energetic performance, that I have rarely testified in many "new Jazz" and RiO projects. The album travels in an intensive procession of Brubeck-like broken keyboard "riffs" alongside a fast and never ceasing drumming, counterpointed by the vibraphone's linear and rhythmical voice, coming upfront as the guiding voice of the "concept" of the album.

Now, to to tag, forget this album, John Zorn's discography, to this or that sub-genre is almost impossible. For starters he comes out with 3 to 5 records a year (sometimes more), and each one has always an specific orientation, different from the others. So he plays from this kind of "modern Jazz", to at least 3 different kind of styles, the "RiO" one, the "Experimental" and the "Classical" ones. Add up to that, his "group" projects. (in this PA page, some of his "solo" records, are still missing).

So, to be clear, even though he has this singular ability to travel different routes the same year, in different productions, he almost never by rule, mixes things up. If you expect Jazz, that is what you get, no crossovers of different pictures. He is a focused composer, who happens to have a natural dominion over different styles of music, but above everything else, he is the owner of his own musical language.

This "Dreamachines" is not "dreamy", in the common understanding of the word, it has to do more with frantic-machinery, that sets you "dreaming" into wild space more than into peaceful environments. Fast and fiery, impeccable virtuous performances, intense and merciless in beauty and controlled frenzy.

Easy, ****4 plus something, PA stars. Don't miss!

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 Nosferatu by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 7 ratings

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Nosferatu
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Nosferatu' - John Zorn (8/10)

Truth be told, I haven't always liked the work of John Zorn. Although I agree with the notion that his best work is indicative of genius, I often get the impression with his solo albums that- quite frankly- there's not a great deal of intent behind them. Most of his musical ideas are engaging in the very least, but considering the man has put out several albums in this year alone, the hit-or-miss factor with his discography is no surprise. With that in mind, it is a joy and marvel to hear such a well-composed and executed album from him. John Zorn may be one of the most prolific composers out there, but as "Nosferatu" attests, this does not necessarily conflict with his quality. Minding the gap between dark ambient music and jazz, Zorn fashions an engaging and altogether believable horror film experience. However, amidst the subtle dissonance and spooky atmosphere, there are a handful of traditionally beautiful jazz tunes that distance it further from the concept gimmick it could have been made out to be. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but Mr. Zorn has created something excellent with "Nosferatu".

"Nosferatu", of course, was originally a silent film; a masterpiece of German expressionism that managed to instill a sense of dread and macabre without a single touch of sound. Once again, in 1979, director Werner Herzog reimagined the vampire story into his own version, which ended up a masterpiece in its own right. For Zorn's purposes, I think the attention should be placed on the original. Although I'm not sure this album is timed meticulously enough to function as a proper soundtrack for the film, it's easy to envision the dark soundscapes here scoring a panning shot of a dilapidated manor-castle or a dimly lit banquet hall. "Desolate Landscape" is very much a representation of the ambient style on the album. It largely negates melody or even rhythm, instead focusing on mixing sounds and embellishing certain textures. The result may be lost on some listeners looking for something less abstract, but the effect of the atmosphere comes on strong and fast. It's oddly reminiscent of the same dark ambient stretches that the avant-garde black metal band Deathspell Omega have used in a couple of their albums.

Taking a look at the album titles, you can usually tell when it's going to be a dark ambient track. There is not a wild diversity within these compositions, but each feels distinctive enough to tell apart from the rest. "Fatal Sunrise" and "Death Ship" are other tracks to look out for. Had "Nosferatu" consisted of nothing but these pieces, I would have been impressed by its keen play with textures, but admittedly bored. Luckily, these dark ambient pieces are kept interesting by the fact that they're interspersed among a handful of more conventional jazz tracks. Fans of his work in Naked City may be expecting Zorn's 'jazz' here to be a chaotic swirl, but barring "The Battle of Good and Evil" (which is just as freaky as you would expect!) things are kept soft and even rather beautiful. "Lucy" and "Jonathan Harker" are the two greatest things "Nosferatu" has to offer. Although Zorn occasionally lends his virtuosic alto sax playing, the star performer here is pianist Rob Burger, who makes these largely keyboard-driven tunes come to life. These pieces often come close to feeling cinematic in their own right, albeit in a much different form than the spooky ambient material. Although the more abstract material on "Nosferatu" is something I think will provoke a love-or-hate response in most people, the piano-based tunes should be memorably beautiful by just about everyone's measure.

It's a great album, and Zorn proves here that he can take a concept piece seriously, without it becoming too abstract to process enjoyably. It's almost as if Zorn is Zappa's evil half- brother.

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 Nosferatu by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.00 | 7 ratings

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Nosferatu
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Slartibartfast
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Bram Stoker is 100 years dead as of April 2012. Imagine that. Nosferatu is actually the name of a movie released in 1922 based on Stoker's novel Dracula but the studio wasn't able to get the rights the novel. The music was created for a modern Polish stage production that is supposed to be "of" the novel. I wasn't able to verify what they are actually calling the play, but anyway... I was a big horror movie fan and also a movie soundtrack fan when I was a kid before I got into prog and jazz and classical so I had to go for this album and it has some of all of that all rolled together. Before you even get to the music you have to take a look at and a feel of the package. The Tzadic label gets two thumbs up for all the CD album packaging and artwork I have encountered so far. The outer cover is a velvety textured black cardboard with dark red slick textured lettering and a little bat on the front. The back is also smooth and velvety with dripping blood from the top edge. The booklet is more of a matt finish but also uses slick clear lettering on the front and clear slick blood streaks running down from the top edges of the pages in various patterns. The booklet has a few pages of pictures from the production (play, dance?) and it looks like it would be really good to see. Maybe it will make it to DVD one day.

Two other albums come to mind and they are Philip Glass's Dracula soundtrack for the Bela Lugosi movie that did get the novel rights and Harold Budd's (not at all about Dracula or Nosferatu) She Is A Phantom. The latter album comes closer to it for having vibes and a more atmospheric quality to the music. Put the three together and you'll have a nice spooky trio.

The track names are fairly indicative of the music you get. The starter track Desolate Landscape starts out the album with foreboding dark ambient music. Mina mellows it out a little while with piano and vibes. The Battle of Good and Evil noisy as you would expect from a battle between good and evil. John gets to in a little of his trademark sax strangling of course. Very industrial sounding a little Nine Inch Nailsish.

Sinistera and Van Helsing have that spooky vibes driven sound that makes me think of the Budd album. Fatal Sunrise brings back some mellower sax work and Bill Laswell steps forward with some atmospheric bass. Hypnosis comes in and spins around your head vibes and electric piano. The Lucy theme has some similarities to another piece from another album, but I can't quite put my finger on it right now. All of the non-undead persons titled pieces on this are really down to earth, mellow, and contemplative. Nosferatu on the other hand is screwy and creepy with rat noises and Zorn's breath.

The Stalking is one of those trademark Bill Laswell ambient dub style pieces. It's a long stalking too, as all stalking should be I guess. Old horror movie stalkings tend to be that way. It's the longest piece. The bass plods on along and creepy keyboards and squealing sax drift in and out and about. The Undead is a quiet piece with John on piano. Death Ship sounds like a creaky old vessel on a dead sea. Jonathan Harker has Rob Burger, the main keyboardist in the group, taking center stage in a duet with the group's percussionist, Kevin Norton, on vibes.

Vampires At Large, bass and electric keyboards lurking about. Renfield, piano and vibes again, hesitant, a little mysterious. Stalker Dub wraps it up, figures, did you remember to shoot it in the head with a silver bullet? No wait? that's all wrong. The stake, the stake, aieeee!!!

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 Mount Analogue by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.14 | 5 ratings

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Mount Analogue
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by dreadpirateroberts

4 stars I certainly feel lazy, guilty even, by adding my tiny voice to the host of others describing John Zorn's Mount Analogue as 'mysterious' ' but that's the feel the music gives me.

Setting aside the impetus of the surrealist novel of the same name, this is indeed enigmatic music. A sense of the unknown is evoked when you listen to its single track, the music pulls you along a near forty minute trip through South American jungles, rivers, mountains and caves. Or so it does when I hear it.

Once again, much has been said of the accessibility of this release, and when compared to some of Zorn's other works, it is at that. At times it's downright pleasant and soothing, beautiful. In other passages there is a sense of menace that never really gets too dark, accented by percussive thumps and at times, harsh or unsettling chanting. But there's such a lightness to the music elsewhere, whether it comes from the variety of bells or the vibes, or piano in the opening minutes, it's there. (And by 'light' I don't mean to suggest that it has no depth.)

And so what does it actually sound like? World music, definitely, jazz, certainly, the Latin and folk genres, yep and yep. Not a lot of what might be termed more traditional guitar-based prog however, but it's still progressive should you be concerned about genre. But more useful perhaps, would be to come back to that word, 'mysterious.' At times this music sounds like it would fit the discovery of a thousand-year old Temple, or maybe be played during a Shaman's dance. But just have a listen and see what you get, the music is certainly capable of suggesting other images.

On Mount Analogue John Zorn composes and has the Cyro Baptista Banquet of the Spirits quartet perform the work. Kenny Wollesen's vibes in particular play a vital role in establishing and changing mood with suddenness or subtlety as required, deserving of much credit. Perhaps the other standout for me in terms of performance, which was more of a personal favourite, was the organ. Throughout, Marsella does exactly what's needed (as he does on piano too for that matter) and I found myself seeking it out probably more often than any number of interesting percussive instruments or the strings of the oud.

In short, I loved it.

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 At the Gates of Paradise by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.00 | 1 ratings

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At the Gates of Paradise
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
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.

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