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DAVID TORN

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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David Torn biography
David Mitchell Torn (aka SPLaTTeRCeLL) - Born May 26, 1953 (Amityville NY, USA)

David Torn is American guitarist and composer (born 26 May 1953, Amityville, NY).He was educated by Leonard Bernstein ("Music for Young Composers"), John Abercrombie, Pat Martino, Paul Weiss & Arthur Basile. His groundbreaking compositionally textural work has had a material impact & influence upon both film scoring --- through his own scores, in addition to his creative contributions to the scores of Carter Burwell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Howard Shore, Mark Isham, and others' --- and upon contemporary electric, electro-acoustic & electronic music, in general.

Guitarist David Torn has been re-ordering the edges of rock, jazz & alien world music ever since he heard Hendrix's "burning wall of voodoo". His sonic pioneering uses a rock sound, minus the usual constraints indeed. In 1994, he was lauded as "Best Experimental Guitarist" by Guitar Player Magazine Reader's Poll. In 1979, David joined the Everyman Band (Lou Reed's recording/touring outfit) on an international tour with Don Cherry. The Everyman Band made two influential recordings for ECM, which led to David's first record as a leader, Best Laid Plans. This release brought his playing to the attention of Norwegian saxophone luminary, Jan Garbarek, with whom David recorded & toured throughout the mid-eighties.

1987 saw David form his own band Cloud About Mercury with Mick Karn, Bill Bruford & Mark Isham. He has produced Bruford's All Heaven Broke Loose, as well as Karn's Bestial Cluster . He composed for the Grammy-winning CD Mark Isham and is the featured soloist/texturalist on many film scores including 'Short Cuts', 'Reversal Of Fortune', 'Storyville' or 'Kalifornia'.

David's commitment to pushing musical technology to its limits has led to consultancies and endorsements with leading-edge companies like Lexicon Corp., Klein Custom Guitars & Rivera R & D. He is active in "new media", having released an acclaimed CD-ROM of soundscapes, and an instructional video aptly entitled Painting with Guitar.

He is a co-conspirator with Terry Bozzio & Mick Karn in the anti-cliché power trio Polytown, of whom Downbeat Magazine said, "With his loops and sheer psychedelic abandon, (Torn) is able to create dense textures, screaming intervallic leaps & dark-hued washes of sound that are as ingenious as the are impossible to imitate."

Natural development has led to his exploration of solo rec...
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DAVID TORN discography


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DAVID TORN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.83 | 6 ratings
David Torn & Geoffrey Gordon: Best Laid Plans
1985
4.29 | 33 ratings
Cloud About Mercury
1987
3.26 | 8 ratings
Door X
1990
3.91 | 37 ratings
David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown
1994
3.21 | 9 ratings
Tripping Over God
1995
3.37 | 11 ratings
What Means Solid, Traveller?
1996
4.27 | 15 ratings
David Torn, Craig Taborn, Tim Berne & Tom Rainey: Prezens
2007
4.12 | 6 ratings
Only Sky
2015
2.00 | 1 ratings
David Torn, Tim Berne & Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger
2019

DAVID TORN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

DAVID TORN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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

5.00 | 1 ratings
Collection
1998

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

DAVID TORN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 David Torn, Tim Berne & Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2019
2.00 | 1 ratings

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David Torn, Tim Berne & Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
2 stars Writing this review is going to be rather an unconventional stretch for me. I borrowed the cd a couple of days ago, listened to its three 22+ minute tracks only partially, feeling that I'm not getting anything from this experimental, free-form sound tapestry - which is actually also my introduction to the artist. But I returned to the noble idea of writing the first review for a new album by an all too little known artist, at first thinking it would primarily be mere information-sharing (with a compromising three- star rating in my mind). But now, listening to it again with much more open-minded patience, I understand I don't need to compromise with my subjective rating. And that's what makes this so interesting for myself: what will I get out of this music, in the end? When rating music that's clearly outside of one's "comfort zone", how does one make the valuation?

David Torn (b. 1953) from New York is a 'textural' guitarist, composer and musician whose "urgent, atmospheric, effects-drenched sound blurs the lines between rock, jazz and avant music" (All Music Guide). He has collaborated with or played for myriads of artists, including many PA names such as Jan Garbarek, David Sylvian, David Bowie, Tony Levin & Alan White, Pineapple Thief, etc. Since 1987 Torn has been recording - though not exclusively - for the unique ECM label, the spiritual home for many avantish jazz artists. This ECM release, a collaboration with alto saxophonist Tim Berne and percussionist Ches Smith, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart, and was followed by a European tour.

As it became clear from my initial reception, this music is demanding for the listener. There aren't solid melodies, rhythms or conventional compositional structures, instead it's all like an extended meditation and sonic adventure for electric guitar, electronics, alto saxophone and drums. AEspecially at first 'Eye Meddle' painted for me an alienated, industrial, eerie and cold mental picture. It lasts for nearly 24 minutes and hardly gets anywhere, so to speak. The free-jazz kind of saxophone wailing is on the centre, the industrialist association comes from the way percussion and electronics (and guitar) are used. Well, I still don't quite know what to think of it, except that its length tests the listener's patience big time.

'Spartan, Before It Hit' -- such peculiar track titles! -- starts very slowly and quietly, free of any percussion. Around third minute joins piano, calmly played by Craig Taborn, and right after you spot the string quartet's presence as well, things get busier. Yes, unlike the opener, this one certainly has a sense of progression. The variety in the textural dynamics is extremely wide, stretching from nervous bursts to creepiness or calmness of the more silent moments. If this was music for a film, the film would be at times frightening but also very introspective and full of emotion one cannot describe in words. There are also two guest guitarists -- and yet you really can't hear any conventional guitar playing here!

In the beginning of 'Soften the Blow' the alto sax sounds like it was hopelessly crying for help in pain. The atmosphere is again very eerie and alienating. Makes me think of a locked-up person staring at the wall, slowly losing his/her sanity. Fortunately the piece has undeniable progress, albeit staying in a rather disturbing, at times totally freaked-out atmosphere, with the sonic whole being more varied than on the first track.

Now, how the hell am I going to evaluate this music I most certainly don't feel like ever returning to?! I think I'm not letting the idea of the uncompromising artistic vision and so called innovation and uniqueness increase my rating, even though I do feel a certain respect for them. I'd even might stick to one star the album only had the first and third track, but the guests deserve my second star.

Please keep in mind the subjectivity of my rating: I'm sure there are potential, avant-minded listeners even here, who might consider this even a five-star masterpiece. Would be interesting to get another review to oppose mine!

 David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.91 | 37 ratings

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David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars. I don't usually complain about lack of variety but I wish they had changed things up a bit more on this one. Torn's guitar soundscapes dominate here and while I love Bozzio's drum work he seems to be holding back on purpose here throughout. The third member Mick Karn impresses me the most with his bass playing and he also adds bass clarinet I just wish there was more of it. This album did remind me of Torn's next album "What Means Solid Traveller?" only I do feel "Polytown" is a step up from that one but not as good as "Cloud About Mercury" from 1987. Torn does add some Hammond B3 organ and harmonica and Bozzio does play some ethnic instruments besides drums.

"Honey Sweating" features the bass and drums contrasting with the guitar expressions until it all settles in around 1 1/2 minutes. Back to the contrasts less than a minute later as themes are repeated. "Palms For Lester" is a top three for me. Drums lead early as we get plenty of atmosphere. Guitar expressions before 1 1/2 minutes and check out the bass! The guitar sounds really good starting before 3 minutes. It calms right down after 4 minutes, lots of percussion and atmosphere. The guitar starts to make some noise before 6 minutes and piano ends it.

"Open Letter To The Heart Of Diaphora" is another top three. This one's kind of trippy, dark and relaxed. The guitar starts to solo after 3 minutes then it quickly gets back to that earlier sound. "Bandaged By Dreams" opens with atmosphere, bass, guitar expressions and beats. A calm 2 minutes in as bass clarinet arrives but the guitar joins in quickly and dominates. Mournful guitar after 3 1/2 minutes and it brings Rypdal to mind. Love the guitar to end it. "Warrior Horsemen Of The Spirit Thundering Over Hills Of Doubt To A Place Of Hope" alrighty then. Okay it's my final top three despite the title. A ton of atmosphere as percussion and drums join in. Bass clarinet after 4 1/2 minutes to end it.

"Snail Hair Dune" opens with drums and atmosphere as guitar and bass join in. Loops and programming too on this repetitive track. It picks up some 4 1/2 minutes in with drums, bass and guitar. A calm 6 minutes in with drums and atmosphere before the bass and guitar return. Love the bass after 4 1/2 minutes. "This Is The Abduction Scene" has some nasty bass sounds along with drums and atmosphere. The guitar starts grinding it out 1 1/2 minutes in then it picks up. "Red Sleep" opens with beats and atmosphere before the organ and bass arrive.

"Res Majuko" is led by percussion, bass and guitar before the organ creates some atmosphere. The guitar is more aggressive after 2 minutes. "City Of The Dead" is the closer. Atmosphere and scraping guitar sounds. Some ethnic sounds here too. This is headphone music right here. Other sounds cry out and there's no real melody here but an experimental soundscape.

I just can't click on that 4th star despite being a pretty big fan of all three. Glad I finally got to spend some time with it though.

 What Means Solid, Traveller? by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1996
3.37 | 11 ratings

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What Means Solid, Traveller?
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars It really bothers me that I don't like this album more being as I'm such a big David Torn fan. We get Mitch Mitchell on drums and Cannonball Adderley doing vocals on some tracks. Like Fripp, Torn offers up a lot of electronics to the soundscapes along with some dark, metallic guitar expressions. This is a moody almost industrial sounding recording over it's 65 plus minutes but the big negative for me is the lack of enjoyment I get out of this for some reason, and the enjoyment factor means a lot when I rate an album. And no I don't like the album cover or the album's title either(haha). Terje Rypdal came to mind as well with how cold and melancholic this recording is.

"Spell Breaks" has a haunting atmosphere to start which is promptly run over by the industrial soundscape with the guitar bringing "Elephant Talk" to mind. This isn't the only track to make me think of "Discipline" by KING CRIMSON. Spoken words and drums come and go and then it turns spacey after 3 minutes but it kicks back in after 3 1/2 minutes. A frenzied guitar section around 5 minutes in. "What Means Solid, Traveller?" opens with intricate sounds including percussion as a guitar melody starts to come and go along with some angular expressions. Some vocals after 5 1/2 minutes as things get more heated. "Such Little Mirrors" has plenty of atmosphere and experimental sounds as the guitar comes and goes in a relaxed manner. Percussion after 3 minutes as it builds. It picks up more 5 minutes in before winding down late and ending like it began.

"Tiny Burns A Bridge" is a bluesy down south number with rough bluesy vocals. A laid back piece that turns fuller when the vocal step aside but contrasts will continue. I like the guitar before 6 minutes as it gets intense. "Gidya Hana" sounds like a tribute to KC circa "Discipline". Even the guitar reminds me of that album especially before 2 minutes. "Each Prince, To His Kingdom, Must Labor To Go" has this eerie atmosphere to start before guitar expressions and percussion sounds take over. "Particle Bugs @ Purulia Station" opens with atmosphere as different sounds come and go. The guitar starts to solo around 2 minutes in one of the few catchy or melodic sections on this album. Drums join in as well. A change before 4 minutes but themes are repeated. I hear bass later on for a change. "I Will Not Be Free..." is like "Tiny Burns A Bridge" in that we get a bluesy, down south vibe with those vocals again. "...Til You Are Free" opens with drums along with some wicked guitar before this rhythm kicks in. One of my favs and not like the rest. "Elsewhere, Now Than Waving" is the over 10 minute closer that stays the course of being dark, atmospheric and spacey throughout reminding me of Rypdal.

So not one of my favourite solo albums from David but if your into experimental and atmospheric music you should check this out.

 Only Sky by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2015
4.12 | 6 ratings

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Only Sky
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Slartibartfast
Prog Reviewer

4 stars My first encounter with David Torn was also an ECM album - Cloud About Mercury. I actually found it used sometime shortly after it's release in 1986. I didn't know who David Torn was but was well aware of his fellow bandmates - Mark Isham, Tony Levin, Bill Bruford. He might be better know by some as a gueest musician. He's worked with Tori Amos, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Happy Rhodes, Jeff Beck, and David Sylvian to name a few. Also had a more prominent role in Bruford Levin Upper Extremeties; Levin Torn White; as well as leading up Torn, Karn, and Bozzio.

For those who are acquainted with Torn as a guest musician he does have a fairly trademark style that once you get to know you will recognise even if you don't already know he's on as a guest musician.

As far as I know this is his only true solo project to date. He plays guitar and an electric oud (a guitar like instrument used in middle eastern and mediterranean music). No credit is given to whatever he's using for his loops.

The music is played solo without overdubs as near as I can tell. It's very ambient and should certainly be of interest to people who like Robert Fripp's solo guitar works.

 Tripping Over God by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.21 | 9 ratings

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Tripping Over God
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars This album is truly a solo album for David Torn. He plays all of the instruments on this one, and honestly, I believe the album suffers a bit for not having any of his usual set of sidemen (Bill Bruford, Mick Karn Tony Levin and the like). His guitar playing, as always, is exceptional. You are never going to hear blinding speed scales from Torn. His style is an endless array of bent notes and agressive chops. And I like that from him.

The problem on this album is that many of the pieces don't sound whole. It's like he created some riffs to solo around, and used those as songs. No breaks, no transitions. But his playing is just so good that it transcends the songs. The songs that are complete sounding are very good, but I feel that they might be better with a Bruford or Karn on the side.

The best track is Pasha, an Eastern sounding tune that does seem to travel well.

 David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.91 | 37 ratings

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David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars Apologies to David Torn and Terry Bozzio, but this is the type of album I had always wanted Mick Karn to do. For some time, it seemed like the only place you could hear Karns slithering fretless bass was behind moody, moaning new wave singers like David Sylvian, Peter Murphy and such. And the previous Torn album, "Door X", on which Karn appears, was marred by some ill advised vocal tracks.

But here we just have three extraordinary musicians playing some excellent onorthodox sounding fusion. Karn, of course plays his Middle Eastern influence fretless bass style, along with some eerie bass clarinet, while Torn plays some of his best off-kilter guitar lines. And Bozzio sounds as good as he did when he almost outplayed Jeff Beck on the "Guitar Shop" tour.

Along with "Cloud About Mercury", this is where to discover the music of David Torn.

 Door X by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.26 | 8 ratings

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Door X
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

3 stars Okay, you start with the incredibly original sounding guitarist David Torn, add in equally amazing drummer Bill Bruford and bassist Mick Karn (along with some other guest artists), and how can you go wrong? Well, by recording an album half made up of vocal based tunes, for one thing. And releasing it on Windham Hill Records for another. Actually, that second fault doesn't purely make this a bad album, but they certainly aren't known for exciting music.

In reality the album isn't half bad. Literally. The five instrumental tunes are quite good. I can enjoy Torn's guitar playing in just about any setting. And Karn's bass playing is always a treat. Of course we all know Bruford.

The problem is that Torn's vocal pieces just aren't very interesting. Aside from the cool performances, the songs just don't quite make it. And let's talk about the cover version of Jimi Hendrix' Voodo Chile. Here it's stripped down so much that it loses all of it's ferocity. Karn and Bruford lay back as well. And where you would most expect a fiery Torn solo, there is none.

Half great, half disappointing - barely three stars.

 Cloud About Mercury by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.29 | 33 ratings

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Cloud About Mercury
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Evolver
Special Collaborator Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams

4 stars This was a surprising album from David Torn. Surprising because around that time, in the mid- eighties, it seemed like ECM record was pushing all of their jazz guitarists to sound like then golden boy Pat Metheny. Well here, Torn does play guitar synth at times, but with King Crimson's rhythm section of Bill Bruford and Tony Levin, the music has much more bite than any of those Metheny vehicles.

The album starts with Suyafhu Skin... / Snapping The Hollow Reed with Bruford playing tuned synth pads in a way similar to the way he used them in his Earthworks band (which debuted the same year as this album). The rhythms build up to the point where he switches to tuned real drums, and then into a full drum kit as the song builds. Levin is his usual cool, funky self playing mostly stick while Torn and Mark Isham play solos over the top. And that's just the first song.

It should suffice to say that this is an excellent find for any eighties King Crimson fan, or avant-fusion enthusiast.

4.5 stars.

 David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.91 | 37 ratings

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David Torn, Mick Karn & Terry Bozzio: Polytown
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Advanced power trio with unorthodox sound. David Torn has his roots in fusion and jazz both, but he always adapts new technologies in his music. Terry Bozzio is well known drummer, but you will be surprised how great he is here on this album! Usually he is more on the back almost in all his participated projects,but there Torn gave him enough space to show his abilities, and it works!

Fretless bassist Mick Karn is known by his synth-pop band Japan, but later he had some experience working with David Torn as well. In all music there is slow to mid-tempo complex often liquid sound with rhythm breakages, electronic loops, ascetic guitar, aerial and very concentrated at the same time.

Always staying in the frames of jazz rock,trio explore genre's and new technologies' possibilities till the borders. Great thing is even if compositions are complex, you will hardly find complexity in the name of complexity on this album. Intelligent, inventive and tasty - its a best compliments I could say about this release.

Recommended for every modern jazz rock fan, bored from classical fusion power trios repetitive releases.

 Cloud About Mercury by TORN,DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1987
4.29 | 33 ratings

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Cloud About Mercury
David Torn Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars David Torn is a highly thought of experimental guitarist from the USA. The fact Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and Mark Isham are his band on this album should tell you how respected he is in the music industry.This album is fairly unique sounding to my ears anyway. Experimental and atmospheric Jazz with a World-Music vibe is what we get. I did think of Terje Rypdal on a few occassions with David's guitar work. He's different as he often creates soundscapes with his guitar instead of soloing.

"Suyafhu Skin...Snapping The Hollow Reed" opens with lots of spacey atmosphere. The acoustic guitar is different sounding that's for sure,it has that World flavour to it. Piccolo helps out too. The electric guitar 3 1/2 minutes in sounds amazing. Back to the previous soundscape a minute later. Electric guitar is back. Drums are prominant after 7 minutes. "The Mercury Grid" opens with horns followed by percussion before a minute. It gets pretty intense before 5 minutes.

"3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment" features Bruford on the synth-drums. We also get horns and atmosphere. Guitar after 2 1/2 minutes. Normal drums 4 1/2 minutes in then back to the synth-drums. "Previous Man" has a good beat with horns and keys. Guitar after 3 minutes. Trumpet blasts 6 1/2 minutes in as drums pound. "The Delicate Code" is catchy to start. It settles before 2 minutes. The guitar comes in reminding me of Rypdal. "Egg Learns To Walk!...Suyafhu Seal" opens with percussion and horns as the guitar starts to solo. Nice. It settles some after 2 minutes. The horn replaces the guitar. Great sound ! Guitar is back 4 1/2 minutes in. It then calms right down a minute later. Sounds proceed to come and go. Lots of atmosphere. It ends just like the album began.

This is a very interesting album to listen to.

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