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John Zorn - Midsummer Moons CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.96 | 9 ratings

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4 stars One of John Zorn's more gorgeous albums was released, appropriately, near the summer solstice of 2017: ten exquisite and sometimes quite lively acoustic guitar duets, inspired by lunar imagery in the plays of William Shakespeare. As usual Zorn abstains from any performance credit (his greatest talent is a generous gift for collaboration), although he did of course write all the music, and also created the evocative collage on the inner CD flap: seaside castle ramparts and shadowy fishermen under a veiled full moon, with a skeletal arm rising portentously out of the surf.

The good news is that the album isn't one of Zorn's typically esoteric neo-classical algorithms. Each song instead recalls the elegance of his Gnostic Trio recordings, stripped to its otherworldly essence: 42-minutes of pure melodic beauty. The twin guitars can be soft as harps ("Silver'd in the Moon's Eclipse"), or reveal a surprisingly keen rhythmic edge ("Moon Take Thy Flight"). I would love to hear the same music interpreted by a sympathetic rock band: the results could be stunning, not unlike a resurrection of early Genesis. But the disarming simplicity of these unadorned instrumental arrangements, in the hands of two ace players, is reward enough.

The bad news is that the album might escape wider notice, buried as it is inside such a mammoth discography as Zorn's, itself likewise dwarfed within the expanding ProgArchives database. If Steve Hackett had released the exact same music (and he easily might have), I have no doubt these pages would be humming with admirers eager to extol its virtues.

In its own unassuming way the album would have to be counted among the best of the year: another quiet triumph for the tireless composer and arranger. The Bard himself describes it best, quoted inside the CD sleeve: "...pluck the wings from painted butterflies to fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes. Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies."

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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