John Zorn and Collaborators at The Village Vanguard Reviewed

John Zorn (cropped version)
John Zorn


Free jazz can be elusive. And it can be so by definition: what we’re talking about when we use that term is collective improvisation without a fully written plot, and usually without a prearranged grid of rhythm or harmony. But the early New York free jazz, the kind that the drummer Milford Graves was involved in during the mid-1960s, wasn’t that elusive. It wasn’t that fractured or obscurantist. It could have the immediate clarity of chants or anthems: it was about people working together in full cry, just coordinated enough. You could hear it and understand its essence before you processed its particulars. And that can also be said for what Mr. Graves did in a clear and quicksilver trio set on Friday night at the Village Vanguard with the alto saxophonists John Zorn and Steve Coleman.