AMN Reviews: John Zorn – Simulacrum (2015; Tzadik)

8330John Zorn’s legacy as a major force of modern creative music is set in stone at this point. But one factor that continues to set him apart is the remarkable breadth found in his compositions and recordings. From classical to free jazz, to middle-eastern music to controlled-improvisation, to soundtracks and more, Zorn has nearly done it all. He has recorded in these styles on many different occasions with a variety of co-conspirators. Therefore, Simulacrum, featuring an aggressive organ trio, should surprise no one, despite being unlike much of his previous material.

The recording features John Medeski (Medeski, Martin, and Wood) on organ, Kenny Grohowski (Abraxas) on drums, and Matt Hollenberg (Cleric) on guitar. Zorn does not actually play, but is credited with composition and arrangements. Of the three instrumentalists, Hollenberg is well known in the heavy metal community, Grohowski to a lesser extent, and Medeski of course is a frequent Zorn collaborator and an established experimenter. Despite the trio’s varied background, Simulacrum arguably focuses on progressive metal (e.g., Fates Warning, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, The Dillinger Escape Plan), 90’s technical metal (e.g., Watchtower, Spastic Ink, Cynic, Atheist) and math rock with heavy riffing, busy double-bass drumming, and angular lines.  In particular, if Medeski were replaced by a bassist, Simulacrum would be familiar territory.

But, the heavy organ adds a unique feel, and one not necessarily reminiscent of the pioneering hard-rock work of Deep Purple‘s Jon Lord. Instead, Medeski brings a unique jazz and blues inflection to the mix.  While Hollenberg’s guitar often takes the lead, Medeski occasionally takes over, building tense, swirling themes.  Grohowski mostly avoids blast-beats, and instead relies on punctuated drumming with rapid fills.  As a result, even though the 43 minutes of Simulacrum covers a variety metal tropes, albeit with organ-based atmospherics, the ultimate outcome is a fresh sound.

In true Zorn “if it is worth doing once, itis worth doing a few more times” style, this release is apparently one of at least three written for the trio, with a second already recorded.  It will be interesting to hear what these collaborators can do with another 80-plus minutes of this format.

SF’s Luggage Store Creative Music Series Profiled


Live electronic music has come a long way since it was the primary subject matter of the “occasional periodical” Source: Music of the Avant-Garde, whose eleven issues were released between 1966 and 1973. As a point of reference, the technology for MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), which uprooted electronic music from the avant-garde elite and dropped it squarely into the center of the pop music domain, was not standardized until 1983. During the years of Source, the closest live electronic music got to the mainstream was in the performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, which performed with an “orchestra” in the pit consisting of John Cage, David Tudor, and Gordon Mumma. All three of these musicians spent much of their time designing and building the equipment that they would then use in performance, creating sonic landscapes against which the dancers would execute their steps.

Chicago Scene: March 21 – April 4, 2015

English: The Vijay Iyer Quartet performed an i...
Vijay Iyer

This is a weekly overview live avant performances in the Chicago area.  Contact us if you’d like your shows listed.

Saturday, March 21st 2015

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($10)
Ben Goldberg, Michael Coleman, Hamir Atwal

Sunday, March 22nd 2015

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($15)
Spektral Quartet with Claire Chase

Monday, March 23rd 2015

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt
Tuesday, March 24th 2015

Wednesday, March 25th 2015

6:00PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western (Free)
Classical Revolution
James Sanders, Michael Maganuco

Friday, March 27th 2015

8:00PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069 ($10, or $30 series pass)
Outer Ear 2015
Isabelle Duthoit, Franz Hautzinger

8:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($25)
Fred Anderson Birthday Tribute
Roscoe Mitchell Quartet with Tomeka Reid, Vincent Davis, Junius Paul

Saturday, March 28th 2015

7:00PM at the Rhythm Room, 1715 Maple Ave, Evanston IL, 847.491.9723 (Free)
Jimmy Bennington Colour And Sound Trio

7:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($30-$25)
Vijay Iyer Trio with Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($30-$25)
Vijay Iyer Trio with Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore

Sunday, March 29th 2015

7:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($30-$25)
Vijay Iyer Trio with Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore

9:00PM at The Owl, 2521 N Milwaukee, 773.235.5300
Jim Baker, Joshua Abrams, Marcus Evans

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western ($30-$25)
Vijay Iyer Trio with Stephan Crump, Marcus Gilmore

Monday, March 30th 2015

9:00PM at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont, 773.281.4444 (wheelchair-accessible)
Extraordinary Popular Delusions : Jim Baker, Mars Williams, Brian Sandstrom, Steve Hunt

Wednesday, April 1st 2015

9:30PM at Constellation, 3111 N Western (Free)
Samuel Mösching Trio with Mike Harmon, Peter Manheim
Sound Of The City Workshop

Saturday, April 4th 2015

8:00PM at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N Ravenswood, 773.769.1069 (Free)
Outer Ear 2015
Stefan Roigk — ‘sprachmusik’

For more information, such as directions, as well as upcoming performances, see:,,,,,,,,,,,,

Upcoming Detroit Shows

Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef

From Detroit’s Trinosophes:

Yusef Lateef: Towards the Unknown
March 20-May 10, 2015
Exhibition opening: Friday, March 20, 6-9 pm

Related Programming
Saturday, March 21 at 2 pm / free:
Discussion with Alhena Katsof (curator), Lars Bjorn and Jim Gallert (co-authors, Before Motown)
Saturday evening at 8 pm / $10-$20 suggested:
Performance by Lateef’s long-time musical collaborators, Adam Rudolph, Ralph Jones and Alex Marcelo

Trinosophes is pleased to present Yusef Lateef: Towards the Unknown, an exhibition of drawings by the master musician, composer and artist, Dr. Yusef Lateef (1920 – 2013). The exhibition of rarely seen work touches upon Dr. Lateef’s ongoing search for ways to reflect peace and love in the world, a creative practice that resonates throughout his music and visual art.

March 28: Giacomo Fiore
April 1: Dave Douglas and High Risk, featuring Shigeto, Jonathan Maron and Mark Guiliana. Tickets on sale at Trinosophes!
April 7: Sir Richard Bishop, DJ set by Twin Spin
April 18: Mid American Center for Contemporary Music
April 22: Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host
April 25: Tribute to Fred Ho’s Afro Asian Ensemble.
May 3: Interwaving strecht
May 5: Instant Composers Pool
May 10: Tim Berne‘s Snake Oil
May 20: Natural Information Society
May 23: Laurence Miller
June 1: Neil Hagerty
June 19 & 20: Rod Williams
June 23: Paal Nilssen-Love‘s Large Unit

Unseen Rain Festival in NY

From Unseen Rain Records:

Event: Unseen Rain Festival: TRIPLE RECORD-RELEASE EVENT
When: Sunday, April 12, 7PM–Sumari, 8PM-Pat Hall’s Time Remembered Organ Group, 9PM-Harmolodic Monk
Where: ShapeShifter Lab 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215

The artist-directed independent label, Unseen Rain Records, is bold in concept, producing radically expansive recordings of innovative jazz and improvised music. UR’s array of CDs and digital downloads have been hailed as “visionary” in the international media. The Unseen Rain Festival will feature three vastly different improvisational music ensembles that offered recent releases. The event unites them under the label’s banner.

SUMARI: The evening will open with the “other-world art music” of Sumari. The channeling of free improv and global folk culture with a boundless sense of the new are the path coursed by Matt Lavelle (trumpet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet), Jack DeSalvo (cello, electric and acoustic guitars, mandola, banjo) and Tom Cabrera (drumset, dumbeq, bodhran, tar, riq, percussion). The band members individually have held ground with such noted avant jazz strongholds as Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society and the Bern Nix Quartet.

PAT HALL’S TIME REMEMBERED ORGAN GROUP: Trombonist Pat Hall, a veteran of Wadada Leo Smith’s ensembles, will perform with the combo heard on his starkly original album “Time Remembered: a Tribute to Bill Evans”. Hall’s Time Remembered Organ Group will offer unique adaptations of Evans’ immortal music. The album has been acclaimed by critics, celebrating the bold concept and arrangements of this jazz icon’s compositions. Joining Hall are Greg “Organ Monk” Lewis (Hammond B3), Marvin Sewell (guitar) and Mike Campenni (drumset).

HARMOLODIC MONK: The evening will close with the duet of Matt Lavelle (trumpet, flugelhorn, alto clarinet) and John Pietaro (vibraphone, hand drums, frame drums, percussion) aka Harmolodic Monk. The pair perform the repertoire of Thelonious Monk, reconstructed by way of Ornette Coleman’s music-liberating philosophy. The pedigree is there: Lavelle spent years studying with Coleman and still performs with Bern Nix; Pietaro is a mainstay of Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra. Harmolodic Monk’s debut release, called “Disc of the Year” by several new music bloggers, compels listeners with blurred harmonies, stinging accents, crushes, soaring melodic lines and at least a little bit of the shock of the new.

Upcoming George Crumb Performances

From Bridge Records:

March 21, 2015
Sonata for Solo Cello
Mills Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison

March 22, 2015 Works of George Crumb and Laura Schwendinger
Miranda Cuckson, Nunc
Mills Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison

March 23, 2015 Madrigals 1-4
Due-East, with Greg Byer and Erin Lesser
Morphy Hall, University of Wisconsin, Madison

March 27, 2015 Music for a Summer Evening
Gilbert Kalish and James Freeman
Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore, PA 7:30 pre-concert talk

March 29, 2015 American Songbook No. 6 Voices from the Morning of the Earth
Ann Crumb, Randall Scarlata, Orchestra 2001
Gould Concert Hall, The Curtis Institute
Philadelphia, PA

March 29, 2015 PREMIERE: Xylophony
Cal Performances Hertz Hall, Berkeley – 7:00 pm (pre-concert talk 6-6:30)

April 4, 2015
Eleven Echoes of Autumn, Vox Balaenae, Mundus Canis, Ghosts of Alhambra
ensemble counter)induction presents a George Crumb 85th Birthday concert
Philadelphia at the Trinity Center on 22nd and Spruce. 4:00PM

April 10-12, 2015
Dance Projects, Inc. presents Dynamic Convergence: Dances and other Stories featuring George Crumb’s “Reverberations” from Zeitgeist, and “Voices for Corona Borealis” from Makrokosmos, Volume II: 12 Pieces for the Zodiac
Conceived and directed by Janet Aisawa and Beth Soll
Medicine Show Theatre, 549 West 52 St. – 8:00 pm

April 11, 2015
George Crumb 85th Birthday Celebration
45 Bleecker St. New York, NY – 8:00 pm

April 13, 2015 American Songbooks
Daniel Druckman and the Juilliard Percussion Ensemble
Alice Tully Hall, New York City

September 29, 2015
Soundstreams: Leslie Dala conducts