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John Zorn - The Mockingbird CD (album) cover


John Zorn



3.85 | 8 ratings

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4 stars These Archives would be a pitiful thing without the music of John Zorn, author of several hundred albums scattered throughout the site, under his own name and on the pages of other, auxiliary bands. His fourth release of at least seven albums in 2016 (or more, if you include additional volumes in his ongoing Book of Angels project) is one of the composer's most beguiling creations yet: 43-minutes of undiluted instrumental bliss, brilliant in its melodic simplicity.

This is music of disarming warmth and beauty, arranged in eight gentle lullabies evoking all the uncomplicated joy of childhood. You can see it in the track titles: "Porch Swing'; "Child's Play"; "Riverrun" and so forth. And the rose-colored past is even more present in the music itself, rendered by Zorn's aptly-named Gnostic Trio: Bill Frisell, Kenny Wollesen and Carol Emanuel, playing (respectively) light electric guitar, lovely vibraphones, and a solo harp aglow in its own supernatural aura.

Zorn's adolescent reverie isn't all sunshine and smiles, however. "A Mystery", at seven-plus minutes one of the album's longer tracks, presents an ominous (but still innocent) minor-key daydream: the score to an imaginary Hardy Boys adventure, with Frank and Joe investigating a cobwebbed haunted mansion hiding dark secrets.

I only learned in retrospect that the music was actually inspired by Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" (Zorn can be seen on the CD insert holding a copy of Elmer Bernstein's movie soundtrack). Familiarity with the book (or the film) might give the album extra resonance, but it isn't a requirement. As usual with John Zorn there's more here than what first meets the ear: a subtle roots-rock vibe (in "Riverrun"); strains of ancient folk music ("Innocence"); and occasional hints of the deeply ingrained Judaica that informs so much of his work, albeit far less explicitly in an album influenced by a Southern Gothic novel set in backwater Alabama.

Don't be fooled by the delicate nature of the music. In its own fragile way this may be one of Zorn's more durable achievements.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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