Posts Tagged ‘John Zorn’

Yoshi’s and Amoeba Music, Oh My!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Aquarius Records

A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco, in part to visit an old friend, in part to see a few shows of John Zorn’s 6-night residency at Yoshi’s. I wrote all about the concerts I saw over at the City Paper, but the brief summary is: Bar Kokhba: wow!; The Dreamers: meh; Electric Masada: holy shit my life is complete. Also: Yoshi’s is a pretty sweet place to see jazz. A little swanky for my tastes, but the one-item minimum is quite reasonable (much better than, say, the $10 minimum at fucking Blues Alley here in DC) and the sushi is totally amazing. Also, for the last Electric Masada set I had fantastic seats up in the balcony, dead center, perfect view of everything.

I also stumbled into Aquarius Records - I am on their mailing list but kind of forgot they’re in SF, and was wandering around my friend’s neighborhood when we came across it. What a great store. As in the pic above, they have these hand-printed reviews taped onto every single CD they sell in the store. Really, every single one. Very obvious that the people who work here love their music. Props!

And, of course, I went to Amoeba Music, which is a very very dangerous place for me, and I walked out with…

  • Æthenor - Faking Gold and Murder
  • Bozulich, Carla - Red Headed Stranger
  • Claudia Quintet, The - Semi-Formal
  • Coleman, Ornette - Free Jazz
  • Coltrane, John - Sun Ship
  • Coltrane, John - Live in Japan (4 CDs)
  • Coup, The - Kill My Landlord
  • Crow, Sheryl - Detours
  • Dresden Dolls, The - The Dresden Dolls
  • Earth - Live Europe 2006
  • Faun Fables - The Transit Rider
  • Flying Luttenbachers, The - Cataclysm
  • Full Blast - Black Hole/Live at Tampere (2 CDs)
  • Geraldine Fibbers, The - Butch
  • Healing Force - The Songs of Albert Ayler
  • Leng Tch’e - ManMadePredator
  • Leng Tch’e - The Process of Elimination
  • Leng Tch’e - Marasmus
  • Ligeti, György - The Ligeti Project II
  • Jarrett, Keith - Radiance (2 CDs)
  • Jewel - Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
  • Schoenberg/Sibelius - Violin Concertos (Hilary Hahn)
  • Tarentel - Live Edits: Italy/Switzerland
  • Xenakis, Iannis - Ensemble Music 2

Seriously, what a fantastic store. I got almost all of those used and cheap. I don’t even know what that Earth album is - it’s an official live album on Southern Lord, but it’s apparently out of print and a Google search turns up very little information. I’ve listened to it once so far and it seems pretty solid. Nothing transcendent but a pretty accurate representation of Earth live. I still want to track down a copy of Live Hex though…

Dominique Leone is still writing

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

If you, like me, have been wondering about Dominique Leone’s recent low profile over at Pitchfork, have no fear! He has a new monthly column, “Out Music,” the second edition of which was published yesterday. There’s good stuff in there, including reviews of reissues of News From Babel, Koenjihyakkei, and Faust, plus a gratuitous Art Bears reference thrown in for good measure. And if you missed last month’s column, check it out, too, as therein lies even more interesting weird-music coverage (and Dominique’s entertaining ramblings).

In other news, it looks like Masada is finally calling it a day, which is probably for the best as it might allow Zorn to focus on his other projects. Hopefully it will also mean his $500,000 Macarthur grant won’t go to issuing the 500th through 600th Masada live recordings. (I mean, I really like this band, but in terms of documentation, only King Crimson overdoes it more.)

Zorn gets $500,000… what now?

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

The big news today is that John Zorn has won the so-called Macarthur “Genius” grant, the same one that Ken Vandermark won a few years ago, that pays out half a million dollars over five years. Folks in the avant-garde community are having predictably mixed reactions over this one. On the one hand, Zorn isn’t particularly cutting-edge these days and hasn’t been for several years. More, the dude already seems to have a hell of a lot more resources than plenty of other equally deserving semi-underground artists out there. Giving him $500,000 for even more Masada live releases seems almost perverse.

On the other hand… he’s still John Zorn, still one of the more fiercely independent musical minds out there, and it’s cool that he’s getting recognition from the establishment (the Macarthur Foundation is large enough to be considered part of the proverbial “establishment,” I think — even though they have given this grant to folks like Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman etc). So, congrats to him, although I hope that instead of expanding the Tzadik release schedule to 5,000 releases per year instead of just 4,000, he uses the funding to take a radical left turn, maybe starting a brand new label for underground artists with a completely different bent. Or at the very least maybe he can now tour outside of New York City and Europe.

Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura: best show I’ve seen for a while

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Saw a couple Transparent Productions shows the past two nights. On Monday, Rashanim, a rock trio who have played interpretations of John Zorn’s Masada songbook, played as part of the Washington Jewish Music Festival. I went with a couple friends (who happened to be Jewish) who absolutely loved them. They played Masada songs that didn’t sound very much like Masada, or very Jewish either for that matter. It was, as Steve Feigenbaum said, all quite jam-bandish. I liked them well enough — it was a fun show, very accessible, and the band went through their set playing a pretty wide variety of styles, from rock and jazz to surf to funk. They were really fun to watch as well. I wish they’d stretched out a bit more and gotten more “out,” but on the other hand my favorites of what they played were the slower, more nuanced and melodic material.

Tuesday night was Satoko Fujii & Natsuki Tamura. Fujii is one of my absolute favorite jazz musicians active today. In the interest of brevity, I often call her an “avant-jazz pianist,” but in the wake of last night’s show this is clearly a totally inadequate description. While she’s known for jazz, she’s classically trained, and this came through in a big way last night. A lot of what she played had as much to do with Western classical music as it did with anything that swung or was jazzy in any sense. She has an amazing knack for going off on intense, Cecil Taylorish tangents and then returning, suddenly and delightfully, to slow, contemplative, beautiful melodies. Tamura was also a revelation on trumpet, playing with feeling and a wide variety of tones and styles. I generally prefer Fujii’s compositions to her husband’s, but his trumpet playing is definitely nothing to sneeze at.

The show was quite demanding, attention-wise, as the two played for over an hour straight, with no breaks in between pieces; I recognized a bunch of the themes but it was often difficult to tell when they had moved from one “song” to another. The music was generally unpredictable, but in a tantalizing way: Fujii in particular would hover over almost-melodies, but instead of playing them out, she would veer off onto different melodies that, often as not, were even more delightful than what came before.

A “difficult” show, and one that generally focused on a more abstract side of Fujii’s than what I’ve heard from either her Orchestra or Quartet lineups, but a fantastic one. I’m thankful that they came to DC to play for an tiny audience of about 15 dedicated folks.

Charming Hostess live in a coffee shop

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

A couple nights ago I got to see Charming Hostess live. They performed for about an hour, singing songs almost exclusively from Trilectic and Sarajevo Blues. I like the big-band version of this group better (who doesn’t?), but they were certainly an incredibly entertaining trio to watch even just a cappella. They call themselves “nerdy-sexy-commie-girlie music” or something like that, but it wasn’t until I saw their live performance that I realized just how nerdy they really are. This is something that really appealed to me: Jewlia introduced every single song, regaling the audience with background details on the songs’ subject matters (which tended to the esoteric: a 1920s love affair between a Marxist revolutionary and a German philosopher, or the siege of Sarajevo). It was nice to see all three performers really get into the songs — clearly, even though they sing in multiple languages, they really know what all their lyrics mean, and they feel them as they sing them. Fun show.

A quick roundup of some interesting reading from the indie-rock sites recently…

Jazz as “the opposite of business”

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

Nice ending paragraph from an article in today’s New York Times about the 2005 releases of a 1957 Thelonius Monk Quartet archival on Blue Note, and Coltrane’s One Down, One Up (which is at the top of my wish list).

This is how jazz works. It is not a volume business. (Its essence is the opposite of business.) Its greatest experiences are given away cheaply, to rooms of 50 to 200 people. Literature and visual art are both so different: the creator stands back, judges a fixed object, then refines or discards before letting the words go to print, or putting images to walls. A posthumously found Hemingway novel is never as good as what he judged to be his best work. But in jazz there is always the promise that the art’s greatest examples - even by those long dead - may still be found.

If this is the case, then, and I say this because I have Tzadik on the brain thanks to eMusic, John Zorn and company are following the right model — releasing scads of great live recordings alongside (or, in the case of bands like Electric Masada, in lieu of) relatively contemporaneous studio recordings. Tim Berne is another great example, as his Screwgun releases are often basically just high-quality audience DAT recordings packaged onto CDs.

On that topic, I’m currently most enthralled with the latest 50th Birthday release, Painkiller’s. This series has been a real goldmine for me, although I’ve been avoiding the non-band stuff (Zorn solo and with guests) except for Volume 5, the duo with Fred Frith, because I know that stuff will just grate on me more than anything else. But the stuff I do have is fantastic, including this one (Volume 12).

Bar Kokhba Sextet kicks ass

Sunday, August 21st, 2005

It’s a bit too early to tell, but I think the new Bar Kokhba Sextet release on Tzadik’s 50th Birthday Celebration series might just edge Electric Masada’s entry in that series (Volume 4) as my favorite. That’s saying a lot, since the latter was one of my favorite albums from a very, very strong year of music in 2004. But the Bar Kokhba title — in addition to being an amazingly great deal, with three CDs covering three full live sets for under $23 — has all the fire and energy of the Electric Masada, with a wider range of moods and a looser feel. I’ll probably be writing a proper review of it eventually, but for now it’s settling in as another favorite drawing from the Masada songbook. I’m going through a bit of Masada overload, what with the recently-released Sanhedrin and all that, but this 3CD set is just killer.

And, for your entertainment, here’s an incomprehensible but still funny review from an amazon.com user (because really, what’s more entertaining than an idiotic review?):

what`s the problem with john zorn? first of all: he never have sex with his instrument. he dont live at all. so he can play it all. but he plays his demoniac paranoid alto saxphone psico concept. o.k. but…we are not all a jewish audience. so? you only have to buy this record or box sert or whatever but its enoguth for your big loft apartment in NYC. o.k.?
we are all ill inners childs but this guy is too much.

Another new one I got recently is Arch Enemy’s latest, Doomsday Machine, which leans a bit too straightforwardly power-metal for my tastes but is still pretty good. I mention it because there’s also a really funny review on amazon.com of this one, from a reader who was apparently expecting the band’s deceptively angelic-looking lead singer, Angela Gossow, to sound like the chick from Evanescence. I would have paid money to see his face when Gossow’s straight-up death-metal roars hit his ears for the first time.