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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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Pellucidar-: A Dreamers FantabulaPellucidar-: A Dreamers Fantabula
Tzadik 2015
Audio CD$13.49
$16.84 (used)
MadrigalsMadrigals
Tzadik 2016
Audio CD$10.77
$10.76 (used)
The Hermetic Organ Vol. 4 - St. Bartholomew'sThe Hermetic Organ Vol. 4 - St. Bartholomew's
Tzadik 2016
Audio CD$13.07
$13.11 (used)
Masada 2Masada 2
Diw Records 1999
Audio CD$29.94
$42.74 (used)
MoonchildMoonchild
Tzadik 2006
Audio CD$8.99
$6.74 (used)
Masada, Vol. 2Masada, Vol. 2
Import
Disky Records 2014
Audio CD$29.18
$16.43 (used)
Masada 6Masada 6
Diw Records 1999
Audio CD$29.96
$18.99 (used)
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On Leaves of Grass [Digipak] by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Jul-2014, Tzadik... USD $14.95 Buy It Now 18h 38m
New Traditions in East Asian Bar Bands by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Apr-1997,... USD $14.99 Buy It Now 18h 38m
FilmWorks VIII: 1997 by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Feb-1998, Tzadik Records) USD $14.99 Buy It Now 18h 38m
String Quartets by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Jul-1999, Tzadik Records) USD $14.99 Buy It Now 18h 38m
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First Recordings 1973 by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Sep-1995, Tzadik Records) USD $14.99 Buy It Now 18h 38m
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FilmWorks VII: Cynical Hysterie Hour by John Zorn (Composer) (CD, Jul-1997,... USD $14.99 Buy It Now 18h 38m
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JOHN ZORN shows & tickets


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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)

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
2.15 | 11 ratings
Locus Solus
1983
2.75 | 4 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume One
1983
3.26 | 6 ratings
Ganryu Island (Michihiro Sato / John Zorn)
1985
2.00 | 3 ratings
The Classic Guide To Strategy, Volume Two
1985
3.07 | 18 ratings
The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays The Music Of Ennio Morricone
1986
3.74 | 18 ratings
Spillane
1987
3.35 | 14 ratings
Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman
1988
3.04 | 4 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
2.94 | 14 ratings
Kristallnacht
1993
3.75 | 5 ratings
The Art Of Memory (John Zorn / Fred Frith)
1995
2.50 | 2 ratings
First Recordings 1973
1995
2.78 | 9 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
3.93 | 8 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
3.33 | 3 ratings
Film Works IX: Trembling Before G-d
2000
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Works X: In The Mirror Of Maya Deren
2001
3.83 | 10 ratings
The Gift
2001
3.56 | 8 ratings
Madness, Love And Mysticism
2001
3.40 | 5 ratings
Songs From The Hermetic Theater
2001
3.04 | 7 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
3.00 | 9 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
2.09 | 5 ratings
From Silence to Sorcery
2007
4.36 | 9 ratings
Film Works XIX: The Rain Horse
2008
3.40 | 12 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
3.50 | 4 ratings
Filmworks XXIII: El General
2009
3.55 | 9 ratings
Alhambra Love Songs
2009
3.62 | 34 ratings
O'o
2009
4.00 | 10 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
4.04 | 4 ratings
Ipsissimus
2010
2.75 | 4 ratings
Late Works (with Fred Frith)
2010
3.09 | 3 ratings
Dictée/Liber Novus
2010
4.03 | 12 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
4.58 | 10 ratings
Interzone
2010
3.09 | 5 ratings
Nova Express
2011
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Satyr's Play - Cerberus
2011
2.00 | 1 ratings
Enigmata
2011
4.00 | 2 ratings
At the Gates of Paradise
2011
3.00 | 3 ratings
A Dreamers Christmas
2011
4.25 | 7 ratings
Mount Analogue
2012
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Gnostic Preludes
2012
4.02 | 9 ratings
Nosferatu
2012
4.53 | 8 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
4.40 | 5 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
4.05 | 2 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
1.00 | 1 ratings
Myth And Mythopoeia
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
On Leaves of Grass
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Testament of Solomon
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
Valentine's Day
2014
3.90 | 2 ratings
Transmigration of the Magus
2014
4.00 | 1 ratings
The Dream Membrane (with David Chaim Smith & Bill Laswell)
2014
3.50 | 6 ratings
Psychomagia
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Alchemist
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Hermetic Organ vol. 2-St. Paul's Chapel
2014
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Hermetic Organ Vol. 3-St. Paul's Hall, Huddersfield
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Hen to Pan
2015
3.33 | 3 ratings
Simulacrum
2015
3.04 | 5 ratings
Pellucidar / A Dreamers Fantabula
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
The True Discoveries Of Witches And Demons
2015
0.00 | 0 ratings
Inferno
2015

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

4.50 | 2 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
3.09 | 4 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
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Song Project Live at Le Poisson Rouge
2015

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

4.67 | 3 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
3.36 | 5 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

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
 Transmigration of the Magus by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 2 ratings

BUY
Transmigration of the Magus
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This year 2014 project from the tireless John Zorn shares an obvious bond with his "In Lambeth" album, released a mere ten months earlier. Both efforts were brought to illuminated fruition by the aptly-named Gnostic Trio, employing the same evocative combination of harp, guitar, and vibraphones, augmented here by even more vibes and a second harpist, plus organist John Medeski of MMW fame: an obvious kindred spirit.

The music is thus equally dreamlike and haunted, and with the expanded line-up presents an even richer experience. The absence of a rhythm section lends the album an almost childlike simplicity at times, but also invests it with a profound sense of rediscovered innocence, like something Fred Rogers might have embraced after forsaking his Neighborhood of Make Believe to become the High Mage of some benign irreligious cult.

The album was actually intended as a tribute to the late Lou Reed, created to aid his passage into the afterlife, through "a musical evocation of the mystical journey of the soul through the bardo" (quoting the CD notes). Despite my natural skepticism, I would like to imagine the shade of the man who authored the notorious "Metal Machine Music" album finding solace in the gentle encouragement of this collection.

Zorn has often been attracted to themes of esoteric magic, and here he found the perfect alchemy of soothing musical ingredients and deeper metaphysical inspiration. His friend and mentor (and fellow New Yorker) Lewis Allan Reed may have been the magus named in the album's title, but it's Zorn himself who weaves a binding musical spell, conjuring 44-blissful minutes of instrumental enchantment.

Irrelevant postscript... This album marked the final lap of a weeklong dash across the unfamiliar terrain (to me at least) of John Zorn's immense discography: seven albums chosen completely by chance, and considered in chronological order. If active listening is a prerequisite to knowledge, music by itself can be an education. And what I learned from this seven-day adventure is that the lesson never ends. Much like the work of his doppelgänger FRANK ZAPPA (another multi-faceted composer, performer, conductor and arranger), any single John Zorn album is only the visible ridge of a larger, living mountain of sounds.

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 In Lambeth - Visions From The Walled Garden Of William Blake by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.05 | 2 ratings

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In Lambeth - Visions From The Walled Garden Of William Blake
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Calling John Zorn a musical chameleon misses the point of his wide-ranging career. He isn't really shifting his colors to suit every change in the immediate environment, but simply revealing other facets of his kaleidoscopic knowledge and passion. So far during my seven-day random sampling of Zorn projects I've caught him switching from traditional Jazz to modern Classical music to the hardest avant-metal and beyond. But this 2013 project sees the chameleon shaded in iridescent pastel hues, all of them soothing to the inner eye (and ear).

Zorn himself, not unusually, was only the composer/producer/arranger. The music itself was performed by the so-called "Gnostic Trio": Kenny Wollesen, Carol Emanuel, and Bill Frisell (the latter another eclectic overachiever, with his own overflowing page in these Archives), playing vibraphone, harp, and understated electric guitar, respectively.

The trio was expanded in this session to a quartet with the addition of 60-year old Ikue Mori, a long-time Zorn collaborator, here given credit only for otherwise undefined 'electronics'. Her enhancements are too subtle for these ears, but together with the conspicuous lack of a rhythm section help give the music its ethereal dreaminess.

The album is so pleasant and so disarming it could almost be mistaken for muzak, which may have been Zorn's intention from the start. But there's a haunting innocence to the music raising it above the mundane toward a rare state of grace, appropriate for an album subtitled 'Visions from the Walled Garden of William Blake'. The trio successfully captures all the romantic mysticism of the 18th century English painter and poet in nine quiet instrumental movements, each one a model of simplicity (but hardly simple).

In the melodic terms of the album, Blake's walled garden becomes analogous to the biblical Eden, before The Fall. No two-faced serpent, no tainted apples, and no original sin: just 48-minutes of uncorrupted beauty.

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 The Dreamers by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.40 | 12 ratings

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The Dreamers
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Approaching the fifth port-of-call on my weeklong odyssey across the vast and (to me, at least) uncharted ocean of John Zorn's musical catalogue, I've suddenly crossed into more temperate latitudes. It's hard to believe this easygoing 2008 album was released only 14-months after the avant-metal sado-masochism of his "Six Litanies for Heliogabalus". Maybe that earlier project succeeded in purging all the venom out of Zorn's blood, leaving nothing behind except a colorful residue of jazzy surf music, like something a party of beatniks would play at a seaside bonfire on a warm summer evening.

The gently reverberating guitar of Marc Ribot is the spotlight instrument here, alongside Kenny Wollesen's snappy vibraphones. And while I hate to lean on the crutch of easy comparison (always the emptiest freight car in a critic's train of thought), it's worth noting a similarity to the genre-busting Brooklyn nu-jazz of Medeski Martin & Wood. The connection isn't a coincidence, either. Ribot has played on several MMW albums, and John Medeski was a guest at a few John Zorn sessions.

The album itself was designed to put a smile on your face. I'm not the only listener to hear a resemblance to Vince Guaraldi's iconic "Peanuts" theme music, particularly in the opening tracks. Just try to hear "A Ride on Cottonfair" without imagining Charlie Brown wearing a trim goatee on his chin and a beret atop his prematurely bald head.

After that the music becomes a little more explorative, but without sacrificing the carefree air of Roots Rock innocence. The unpronounceable "Anulikwutsayl" is a neon-lit fantasia of mystery and menace; the former audible in Jamie Saft's eerie after-hours Farfisa organ; and the latter in Ribot's increasingly agitated electric guitar, all played over a slow, repetitive bass guitar ostinato recalling one of Miles Davis' post- "Bitches Brew" experiments. "Mystic Circles" is another hypnotic collage of heartbeat grooves and exotic percussion accents. And the closing track "Raksasa" was named for a malevolent Hindu deity, depicted in what must have been one of his more upbeat moods.

The album (later the band itself) was well-named, as a collection of lucid dreams recalled in almost perfect clarity. The music of John Zorn, as even a newcomer like me will quickly learn, can sometimes be unfathomable...but not this time. And from here onward along my improvised journey through his bottomless discography, the forecast is much the same: sunny, but cool.

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 From Silence to Sorcery by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.09 | 5 ratings

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From Silence to Sorcery
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

2 stars John Zorn's 2007 album is another scholarly compilation of modern classical chamber music, close enough in style to his earlier "Mysterium" (2005) to be an undeclared sequel. But the results this time are less engaging, in part because the arrangements are even leaner, and probably by design. The newer album collects three more original works (written years apart, between 1997 and 2002), each one resembling a single backing track isolated from a much fuller recording session, as if to facilitate closer analysis of every instrument.

The opening "Goetia" is a challenging exercise for solo violin, played with detached, atonal virtuosity by Jennifer Choi. The piece was divided into eight discrete sections but is only 14-minutes long in aggregate, although it may seem longer to anyone unaccustomed to contemporary classical minimalism.

Next up is "Gris-Gris", supposedly "inspired by the music of Korean shamanism, Haitian voodoo, and (!) a scene from Howard Hawks' classic film To Have And Have Not" (quoting from the CD cover, with my own incredulous exclamation mark). Fair enough, but what you're hearing are thirteen multi-tracked tuned drums and nothing else, played for nine minutes and reminiscent of an early RESIDENTS experiment: "Six Things to a Cycle" without the subversive humor.

And lastly is the six-part "Shibboleth", a musical tribute to Jewish poet Paul Celan performed on clavichord, three muted strings, and percussion.

All three compositions are thoughtful, even intriguing. But some essential vitality was lost in translation to disc (a live performance of the same material, witnessed firsthand, would have been thrilling). And it's a short album too: hardly 36-minutes altogether, a nod to quality over quantity perhaps, but at first exposure lacking a complement of either. It might actually take more time to read the notes in the CD booklet than to play the CD itself, and be more educational as well. But since when is music meant to be homework?

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 Mysterium by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.00 | 9 ratings

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Mysterium
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The second station on my seven-album beginner's tour through the voluminous discography of John Zorn finds the artist once again switching musical hats, something he does with a dexterity bordering on sleight of hand. This time he traded his Jazz fedora for a Neo-Classical chapeau, in three original pieces for progressively smaller ensembles, each opus resembling the soundtrack to an obscure European art-house film.

Zorn himself doesn't perform on the album, but his restless intellect is all over every note of music. The album opener "Orphée" might have been a selection from an alternative score to Jean Cocteau's 1950 screen masterpiece of the same name: a playful update of Greek mythology set in a swinging Left Bank art colony. References to Debussy provide an occasional respite of melodic grace, and the unexpected electronic embellishments lift the piece above the usual arid, orchestrated post-modern exercise.

The longer "Frammenti del Sappho" is a vocal arrangement for a female quintet, lovely stuff but following the same agenda, all but inscrutable to anyone unschooled in classical music theory and notation. And the final, three-part "Walpurgisnacht" (named for the annual witches sabbath in older pagan calendars) features a string trio scraping and plucking in careful syncopation, again suggesting a modern ballet score, minus the choreography.

Legitimate chamber music of such exquisite refinement doesn't really belong anywhere near a web site named ProgArchives, except perhaps as a link to parallel avenues of musical evolution. Add a heavy Prog Rock rhythm section and the same album would be a magnet for enthusiastic five-star accolades. Otherwise it would have to stand as an acquired taste for all but the most delicate palates.

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 News for Lulu (with  George Lewis / Bill Frisell) by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 1988
3.04 | 4 ratings

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News for Lulu (with George Lewis / Bill Frisell)
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars John Zorn's 1988 album is straight Jazz with no fusion embellishment, and thus only indirectly suitable for reviews on a website devoted to Progressive Rock. Even less so from a critic barely wet above the ankles in the larger ocean of Jazz Music, and making his first stop in a random chronological exploration of albums from this absurdly prolific artist and polymath.

The twenty tracks (three of them live) are trio arrangements of works by Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, and Freddie Redd. And if (like me) you don't recognize any of those names, or hold any reverence for the Blue Note label recordings of the 1950s, this disc may not be for you.

And yet a certain avant-garde edge can be discerned in the line-up itself: alto sax, trombone, and muted electric guitar...no bass, no drums, no keyboards. The economical soundstage gives the music an austerity belied by the vigor and pep of the actual playing: Hard Bop minimalism, and too cool for casual jazzheads like yours truly.

For non-jazzers the most attractive aspect of the album might be the photos in the CD booklet of silent film icon Louise Brooks (the album was of course named for her character in the 1929 G.W. Pabst classic "Pandora's Box"). Otherwise there's more to this project than I could ever hope to fully appreciate, in the interpretation and performances.

Dedicated boppers with an analytical mindset are encouraged to investigate it in depth, and add the appropriate number of stars.

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 Pellucidar / A Dreamers Fantabula by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.04 | 5 ratings

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Pellucidar / A Dreamers Fantabula
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars Jazz a lá Zorn

The most notable thing about John Zorn´s "Pellucidar" (2015), besides the fact that he acts as arranger, composer, conductor, primary artist and producer, is his amiable approach to classic and modern Jazz, with slight brushes of Rock, standards.

Unexepected as where it will go as most of his releases, regarding stylings, this project shows its roots from the very first composition to its last.

Its songs run through quiet travelled roads, yet there is this "Zornesque" attribute that marks its own step without sabotaging or twisting the styles as to become a parody of themselves. In fact it enforces these style "standards" to the limit without shame.

To advise what kind of instrumental environment you will find, let me finger point that the electric piano (Jamie Saft) and Kenny Wollesen's vibraphone play lead role and they are counterpointed by an electric guitar (Marc Ribot) which varies its function accordingly. Sometimes angry and poignant, others distant, dreamy and wrapping, others "latin" like and others just truly Rocking. And of course everything is tightly bound by a true to the varied Jazz styles rhythm section (Trevor Dunn, Ben Perowsky and Cyro Baptista, among others).

Music wise it could actually turn out be a truthful tribute to some of the Jazz legends that have enriched these styles. Influences like Tatum, Hampton and Rich trio or Dave Brubeck or Wes Montgomery to B.B. King to George Benson (yes I´m also surprised) and whatever may fall in between.

As far as the rating goes, I have to agree that in John Zorn´s terms this album is quiet daring, yet I could not really consider this, extremely good and clean-cut, release as "essential", even though it is flawless.

***3. (imaginary) 9, PA stars.

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 The Dream Membrane (with David Chaim Smith & Bill Laswell) by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.00 | 1 ratings

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The Dream Membrane (with David Chaim Smith & Bill Laswell)
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by admireArt
Collaborator PSIKE Team

— First review of this album —
4 stars A dark drone like mass.

As I have stated somewhere along these PA pages, I am a Bill Laswell buff, therefore anything that has his name on gets my full attention. John Zorn is no stranger to nobody, less to Mr. Laswell, they have met more than once.

David Chaim Smith, in this 2014 "The Dream Membrane", is the glue that holds both master musician´s skills. The whole musical concept derives from his texts and images, so its "field day" for both musicians to indulge in their well known musical composition talents and emerge as a perfectly balanced team.

John Zorn is given full space to take matters into his hands and explode freely, for real, his wind-works virtuosity and from scratch he builds up to high eerie altitudes.

Bill Laswell (sadly missing in PA) is, as everybody knows, highly creative, always proposing new musical directions and unobtrusive when needed. Yet always there with his astounding Bass guitars and Atmospheres to play along with the crooning voice and the delirious Sax player in this project.

As far as the music goes, I can assure to most or not that "average" prog-audiophiles, that this drone like mass will leave you enlightened in some very "Dark" and novel ways, without playing the quiet cliched "Devil" worshipping music, which as far as me, has become a repetitive joke.

****4 PA stars.

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 Femina by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.00 | 10 ratings

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Femina
John Zorn RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

5 stars In this album, the prolific composer John Zorn utilizes a small orchestra of musicians to perform his piece called "Femina" which is a tribute to the creativity and ingenuity of 52 specific women, some real and some mythological and fictional. Even though this album is split up into 4 tracks, each track has several short songs which are melded together into one whole. So, with a total run time of a little over 35 minutes, and with each of the 52 women represented in that time, you can expect this to be quite the collection of moods and short quick songs. And so it is. But believe it or not, it is very cohesive.

The music is very engaging and never really gives you much of a chance to get comfortable in one style or mood. John's music can be said to have attention deficit disorder in that it can jump around from a nice lyrical piece to a very dissonant noisy section in the blink of an eye. Yet, with that, the music remains accessible for the most part which makes this album a good introduction to his more classically-influenced music. You have a nice combination of acoustic, traditional instruments and electronic generated sounds and music all through the album. For the most part, this is a minimalistic composition, but don't get comfortable with that because it can change without warning.

I love the fact that Zorn uses both romantic and impressionistic styles together in this album. I always wondered why composers didn't like to mix the classical styles more often than they do and even asked a music professor that questions once. He told me that he really believed that to be the classical music of the future, but the composer would have to be very well versed in all styles to do it well. I really believe Zorn has accomplished that here because everything here works beautifully and it is amazing how the music flows together so well.

Most people reading this review might think this sounds too much like a soundtrack album. But I can assure you that is not the case. It would have been easy for Zorn to fall into this trap, but he has been careful to not let that happen here. And with all of his movie music that he has, he knows the difference.

Also, even though the music can jump around a lot, there are several passages that actually do extend past one minute in length, so it is possible to actually lose yourself in a melody, but as I said earlier, don't expect to get yourself too comfortable. And don't expect many repeats either. I think Zorn is allergic to repeated music or maybe his mind is so creative that he can't stop to rest on a single melody too long without getting bored. I don't know, but I do know that he has created a very engaging piece of work here and even with it's quick changes, it is still accessible, at least in terms of Zorn's music.

Expect a lot of beautiful, lyrical music here with nice thoughtful passages but also expect the instruments to get exploited to their extreme usage and expect crazy electronic passages that will be jolting in relation to the quiet passages. There is so much beauty and genius at work here, if you blink or get distracted, you can actually miss a lot even in a few seconds. This is a definite masterpiece of avant garde classical music that all serious listeners should hear. If this music is still too far out there for you, then you should really limit your time exploring Zorn's discography. But if you love surprises and unpredictability in your music, then you definitely need to continue listening to more of his music. I think anyone could actually find something that will be endearing to them if then search his music long enough, I guess it all depends on how much time you want to devote to the search. But to me, it's worth the time to find a masterpiece like this one. 5 stars.

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 Templars-In Sacred Blood by ZORN, JOHN album cover Studio Album, 2012
4.53 | 8 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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Thanks to Joren for the artist addition. and to updated by Snobb for the last updates

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