AMN Reviews: John Zorn at The Art Institute of Chicago

iconsquare1382315287-116932-zorn1On September 9, 2018 the Art Institute of Chicago presented performances of musical works by composer John Zorn. Zorn’s unique body of work draws on jazz, rock, punk, metal, classical, klezmer, sacred, mystical, experimental, film, cartoon and improvised music. Zorn is a musical alchemist able to transform this diverse material into something completely new. The program featured six hours of live performances plus documentary screenings. This concert provided listeners a rare opportunity to hear a variety of Zorn’s work expertly performed by many of the musicians that have been part of his universe for decades. John Zorn was also in attendance. He very briefly introduced each of the pieces and the musicians. He also performed in two of the day’s events. For the explorers of John Zorn’s musical universe this was a concert they will remember forever. For new comers and the curious, they were able to sample a very small part of the work of one of the planet’s most prolific and diverse contemporary composers.

The performances were situated in galleries that contained many of the museum’s most iconic art works. This provided an ambiance that allowed the pieces to be a “response” to the art works in the gallery.  The day began with the American Brass Quartet greeting visitors as they performed “Pulcinella” on the Grand Staircase of the Art Institute. It was a wonderful performance that echoed through the museum, announcing the beginning of the day’s events. This was followed by an absolutely sublime performance of the “Gnostic Preludes” by the Gnostic Trio – Bill Frisell(guitar), Kenny Wollesen(vibraphone) and Carol Emanuel(harp).  Hearing this music so beautifully played in a gallery containing some of the greatest art works of the Impressionist era was pure magic.

At noon it was off to the Dali room to hear members of the JACK quartet – Chris Otto(violin) and Jay Campbell(cello) with Michael Nicolas(cello) in a spectacular virtuosic performance of “Freud”, an intense spiky piece of sharp and sudden contrasts. This was followed by a stunning cello duo performance of “Ouroboros” another of Zorn’s intense virtuoso string works. Following this dramatic intensity was a performance of “Frammenti del Sappho” in the Sculpture Court by the voices of Rachel Calloway, Kirsten Sollek, Sarah Brailey, Eliza Bagg, and Elizabeth Bates. This is an incredibly delicate and beautiful work. The visual setting for this performance was wonderful and the performers were outstanding, but the acoustics didn’t work for me. This is an incredibly powerful piece that when performed in a space with acoustics similar to a church or temple would just wash over you and realign your molecular structure.

Next it was off to the Warhol room for a performance of a jazz inspired work, “Naked Lunch” with Sae Hashimoto(vibraphone), Shanir Blumenkranz(bass) and Ches Smith(drums). It was a very tight, high energy performance. Absolutely wonderful! I heard many people comment that it was their favorite performance of the day. Then it was off to the Joseph Cornell gallery for a solid performance by Erik Friedlander and Michael Nicolas of a series of “Bagatelles” for two cellos. By this point the audience had more than doubled.

At 2:00 John Zorn(saxophone) and Kenny Wollesen(drums) performed an improvisation in response to Jackson Pollock. At this point the size of the audience had greatly exceeded the capacity of the gallery and many listeners including myself had to hear the performance from one of the adjoining galleries. Despite being one room over the duo sounded fantastic and the crowd absolutely loved it. I have to say the crowd absolutely loved everything that was performed at this event.  Next it was off to the Picasso Gallery to hear Julian Lage and Gyan Riley perform selections from the “Midsummer Moons”. This music is similar in some ways to the music written for the Gnostic trio in that it’s a very beautiful melodic music.  Again, the crowd absolutely exceeded the capacity of the gallery. I along with many others had to listen from one of the adjoining galleries. It was another sublime performance!

At this point there were still four more performances and the documentary screening. Given the growing crowd I made the difficult choice to skip the documentary, the American Brass Quartet performance of “Blue Stratagem”, Michael Nicholas’s performance of “as Above, So Below”, and Chris Otto and Michael Nicholas’s performance of “Zeitgehöft”. This allowed me to get to the gallery where “Hockey”, one of Zorn’s game pieces was to be performed. John Zorn’s game pieces are a series of works for improvisers in which rules and strategies are interactively enacted upon by the improvisers during the performance of the piece. For this performance Zorn said that he chose the “wet” version of “Hockey”.  John Zorn, Kenny Wollesen and Sae Hashimoto performed the piece on little percussion instruments built and or modified by Kenny Wollesen. It was a spectacular performance that took place in a small dark gallery of contemporary Asian art works.

The final performance of the day was in the Kandinsky Room. The JACK Quartet performed “The Unseen”. At this point the biggest crowds had dispersed but the Kandinsky room and its semi-adjoining gallery were filled to hear the days final piece.  “The Unseen” is a delicate string quartet filled with shimmering harmonics that rise up from out of the silence, eventually disappearing. It was a great to end the day. The crowd really showed their appreciation for the JACK’s, John Zorn, all of the musicians that performed during this event and to the Art Institute of Chicago for programming such a rare and incredible musical event.

For me this was one of the best musical events I have ever attended.

Chris De Chiara

Newsbits: Jeff Snyder and Federico Ughi / Resonance / Elliott Carter / Carl Testa in NY

The latest release from Jeff Snyder and Federico Ughi is reviewed.

A performance of Resonance will take place in Austin on Sept. 22: “Resonance is a site-specific music event by Austin percussionist Chris Cogburn and Mexico City composer Iván Naranjo. The one-hour piece moves seamlessly between elements of performance and sound installation to put into dialogue the dynamic resonances of St. Martin Ev Lutheran Church’s singular acoustic space.”

Elliott Carter is profiled.

Carl Testa Sextet will perform for the first time in NYC on Tuesday Oct 9 using Sway, an interactive live processing environment designed by Testa. The ensemble features Erica Dicker on violin, Junko Fujiwara on cello, Louis Guarino Jr. on trumpet, Andria Nicodemou on vibraphone, Anne Rhodes on voice and Carl Testa on bass and electronics. 8pm, Tuesday, October 9th Wonders of Nature, 131 Grand St Brooklyn, NY.

The Free Jazz Collective Reviews

Source: The Free Jazz Collective.

Latest Releases of Israeli Saxophonist Albert Beger and Double Bass Player Shay Hazan

Ben Hall’s Racehorse Names – The New Favourite Thing Called Breathing (Relative Pitch, 2018) ***½

BROM – Cardboard Sea (Tiger Moon Records, 2018) ***½

J@K@L (Keefe Jackson, Julian Kirshner, Fred Lonberg-Holm) – After A Few Days (Jaki Records, 2018) ****

Dave Ballou and BeepHonk – The Windup (Clean Feed) ***½

Ken Vandermark, Klaus Kugel, Mark Tokar – No-Exit Corner (Not Two Records, 2018) ****

Marco Colonna, Agustí Fernández & Zlatko Kaučič – Agrakal (Not Two, 2018) ****½

Pamela Stickney, Geoff Wilt, Heterodyne in DC This Saturday

Source: Sonic Circuits.

Pamelia Stickney is an American theremin player. She has performed and recorded with many artists including David Byrne, Yoko Ono, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Seb Rochford, Otto Lechner and Simone Dinnerstein, and was instrumental to the final design of Robert Moog’s Etherwave Pro Theremin, for which she was the primary test musician. She has made various film, television and radio appearances, most notably on Saturday Night Live, and in the 2004 documentary Moog. Stickney has also presented talks at events such as TED. Her background as a jazz musician on the upright bass has led to develop a “walking bass” theremin technique. She was based in New York until 2005; she now lives in Vienna, Austria. Stickney was first introduced to the theremin during production of the album Into the Oh in 1999 by Luaka Bop duo Geggy Tah – singer/writer Tommy Jordan and keyboardist Greg Kurstin. She recorded Gymnopedie in 2000 as a member of the theremin/keyboard duo called “The Kurstins” with her then-husband, Greg. Her first solo album Thinking Out Loud was released in 2007 on John Zorn’s Tzadik label. In 2011 the London-based label Slowfoot released Ouch Evil Slow Hop, a collaboration between Pamelia and Seb Rochford. In 2013, Stickney formed Blueblut with Mark Holub and Chris Janka. The Vienna-based trio released their first album hurts so gut on Bandcamp in 2014.

Geoff Wilt is a musician living in Silver Spring, Maryland. His recent work has focused on hardware modular synthesizers and acoustic instruments to create music blending the compositional and improvisational.

Heterodyne is an improvisational project; its co-founders and core performers are Maria Shesiuk (Moog and processed vocalizations) and T. A. Zook (NS Design Omni Bass, strung as a basscello). Although it is essentially a duo, when complex schedules permit, it performs with Patrick Whitehead on quarter-tone flügelhorn and trumpet; Bob Boilen on ARP synthesizer; Doug Kallmeyer on bass and synthesizer; Jerry Busher on drums; Sarah Hughes on sax; Leah Gage on drums; Sam Lohman on drums; Amanda Huron on drums; and Dan Gutstein, spoken word.

Saturday, September 15th 2018 @ 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm
~ $10

6950 Maple Street NW, Washington DC, DC

Seattle Scene: September 13-22, 2018

From Seattle’s Wayward Music Series:


Chapel Performance Space at Good Shepherd Center

4th Floor, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, Seattle 98103 (corner N 50th St. in Wallingford)

Every month, Nonsequitur and a community of like-minded presenters and artists offer ten concerts of adventurous music in an informal yet respectful all-ages setting: contemporary classical, free improvisation, the outer limits of jazz, electronic music, microtonal/new instruments, sound art, and other extraordinary sonic experiences.

Eric McElroy: The Living, Part 2
Thu. Sep. 13, 8 PM; $5 – $15 at the door

This piano recital celebrates the diversity of music in our time with works by British and American composers, celebrating the birthdays of Howard Skempton and Frederic Rzewski. The program also includes a dazzling piece for piano and piccolo by Seattle composer Ken Benshoof, and concludes with the American premiere of a piano fantasy by John Joubert based on his acclaimed opera Jane Eyre.

Lost Chocolate Lab
Fri. Sep. 14, 8 PM; $5 – $15 at the door

Somewhere tangled in the frequency-sheets of sound stands a lone guitar player; glaciers of distortion covering invisible mountains of sound with blankets of white noise atop towering peaks. Impossible to reconcile the enveloping sound from common six-stringed instrument, dipped in a modulated acid-bath of signal processing, emerging as a rippling pool of sound-waves lapping on the shore of consciousness.

Sound Ensemble: L’histoire du soldat
Sat. Sep. 15, 7 PM; $20, $15 at the door

The Sound Ensemble will present Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), with narrator. Join us for this fable-like story about wisdom vs. folly, materialism vs. meaningful relationship, as our soldier (Joe) struggles with many of the issues that we face in more subtle forms each day.

FRI. 9/21 -Soren Hamm (saxophone) & Cassie Lear (flute) play works by Takemitsu, Iannaconne, Crockcoft and others

SAT. 9/22 – Nonsequitur presents Lou Mallozzi (Chicago) + Gyre

September Point of Departure is Out

Source: Point of Departure.

Page One: a column by Bill Shoemaker

Steve Swell: One Step Beyond: an interview with Troy Collins

Noel McGhie: Free Jazz, Paris and the Seventies: an interview with Pierre Crépon and Jochen Behring

The Book Cooks:
The Other Night at Quinn’s/New Adventures in the Sonic Underground
Mike Faloon (Razorcake/Gorsky Press; Los Angeles)

Ezzthetics: a column by Stuart Broomer

Moment’s Notice: Reviews of Recent Recordings

Olivia Block Interview

Source: 15 questions.

I took piano lessons when I was a kid. My piano teacher taught me how to score very simple compositions by hand. I also recorded sounds and songs on tape recorders.

I got really into music as a kid through listening to the local college radio station. When I was around 10 years old, my cousin James Scott introduced me to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. Then, I listened to everything in that orbit – David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Talking Heads. Through this music, I was introduced to the concept of recording production. I noticed that whatever albums Brian Eno worked on were impacted dramatically in terms of the sound of the music. My interest in music wasn’t just about the songs or musicians. It was about the recording process, the editing, the effects, etc.