AMN Reviews: John Zorn – The Book Beri’ah (2018; Tzadik)

I find boxed sets daunting, mainly due to the time commitment involved not only to listen but to absorb the material therein. John Zorn’s The Book Beri’ah consists of 11 albums, which is lengthy even as these things go. Nonetheless, there is no shortage of gems on this varied set, which makes it essential for Zorn fans.

The Book Beri’ah marks the end of Zorn’s 25-year Masada series. Not a group anymore as it was in its early days, Masada is instead three books of songs and tunes composed or roughed out by Zorn and filled in and performed by musicians with a broad set of backgrounds and styles. Here, he surrounds himself with long-time collaborators as well as some new faces. This capstone project took three years to put together, and represent Zorn’s works being played in a broad variety of ways.

With all of that in mind, let’s get down to the music.

The set begins with Keter, featuring Argentinian vocalist Sofia Rei and Carribean-born JC Maillard on saz bass. The latter is an 8-stringed guitar-like instrument capable of producing both lead and bass lines, and is a perfect fit for Zorn’s Middle-Eastern and Eastern European themed Masada collection. In these duets, Rei sings in Spanish with folk inflections. The result is a pleasant set of songs and one of Zorn’s more accessible efforts.

The next release, Chokhma, is an abrupt shift. It is performed by the metal band Cleric, gruffly shouted vocals and all. Unless you listen closely, the fact that the band is playing Zorn’s music might be lost. Nonetheless, the album is far more than just riffing and pounding rhythms (though there are plenty of those elements). Cleric is an unusually creative group (think Meshuggah or Fantomas), and playing Zorn’s compositions pushes them in a more melodic direction. Nonetheless, the instrumental breaks shine with unconventional structure, featuring the occasional dose of oud, keyboards, violin, and accordion.

Binah is performed by the 16-piece Spike Orchestra. Instrumentally, the majority of the group uses wind and brass, which gives the recording a thick wall of sound character. But this big-band jazz approach is tempered by keyboards, guitar, and drum kit. Think Gil Evans and Frank Zappa meet Darcy James Argue to collectively arrange pieces by Zorn for a James Bond film. These tunes also obscure their Masada source material under shifting layers of horns, as well as an overall groove.

Acoustic guitarists Julian Lage and Gyan Riley team up for Chesed, duets exploring Masada’s Mediterranean roots. Those who have followed Zorn’s works over the last couple of decades will find familiar motifs here and there, but Lage and Riley expand upon these with improvisation and a handful of extended techniques (speed picking, body work, etc.). Thus, these pieces vary from being quaint and charming to going slightly outside.

While many of the collaborations on Beri’ah might be considered “supergroups” in any other setting, Zorn’s legacy of putting together interesting combinations of stellar musicians makes this term less meaningful. Nonetheless, Abraxas, the progenitors of Gevurah, consists of nothing short of an all-star lineup. Featuring the dual guitar attack of Aram Bajakian and Eyal Maoz with Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass and Kenny Grohowski on drums, this quartet launches itself through nine offerings of twisted hard rock and metal with distorted overtones of free improv and heavy blues. Of course, Zorn’s signature melodies take center stage as well, but the group works through them at a feverish pace supported by Blumenkranz and Grohowski’s non-stop, hectic rhythms. Needless to say, Gevurah is a high point of this set for me.

Klezmerson is a somewhat self-descriptive name for a Mexican Klezmer group with eight main members (three percussionists) and an even larger number of guests.  Their style is truly a hybrid on Tiferet, with rock, jazz, funk, and even prog influences along with the aforementioned Klezmer and Mexican musics – a bit retro as well, but in a good way. The flute and horns combine with guitar riffs as the group wends through complex melodies and themes. This one was a grower and ended up being a favorite.

Netzach features The Gnostic Trio, which consists of longtime Zorn collaborators Bill Frisell and Kenny Wollesen on electric guitar and vibes, respectively, as well as Carol Emanuel on harp. This group takes things down a notch or two, with deliberately paced, introspective readings. While the melodic approach is familiar, Netzach is a different animal atmospherically. Aside from a Frisell solo or two, the pieces are more subdued featuring interwoven themes and an occassional western ambient feel.

Hod is performed by the 10-person Zion80, another bluesy big band ensemble. More overtly retro than Klezmerson, this group also features afrobeat tendencies. Additionally, Hod is the only album of the entire set that includes a performance from Zorn. Though he only appears on one track, it is a burner with heavy riffing and wailing sax. Otherwise, the three sax players and guitarist take a prominent role, while keyboards and flute add texture as well as a solo or two. While varying in intensity from track to track (with the Zorn track at the high end of the spectrum), there is a soulful and organic ingredient to Zion80’s contribution that gives it an unusual appeal.

The closest thing to a traditional jazz approach in the set comes from percussionist Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits. Joined by Brian Marsella on piano and vibes, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass, and Tim Keiper on drums, Yesod explores the more upbeat side of the Masada books. Marsella’s jagged piano work includes slight echoes of Brubeck with a Latin flair. The pace remains energetic throughout most of the album’s 9 tracks.

Malkhut is performed by Secret Chiefs 3, a long-standing avant-rock group led by guitarist Trey Spruance. Here, it is expanded into an 8-piece lineup with an additional guitarist, keyboards, violin, kaval (Turkish flute) bass, drums, and percussion. Stylistically, the group moves deftly about between metal, jazz, twisted folk, Middle Eastern, and cinematic music from moment to moment. The sheer variety of styles and the speed at which Spruance et al. shifts from genre to genre to a genre-less approach is remarkable. Another high point.

Da’at completes the set with a series of solo piano, piano duo and piano trio (piano, bass, drums) pieces performed by Craig Taborn, Vadim Neselovskyi, and the latter’s trio. This is a “bonus” album and is the only one that includes multiple takes of the same piece. The most engaging of these recordings are the piano duos which feature intricate interplay between Taborn and Neselovskyi, as well as Neselovskyi’s trio work.

Overall, The Book Beri’ah reflects the flexibility of Zorn’s compositions and material – it can be performed by any number of musicians in any configuration, and the performers can follow Zorn’s framework or set forth on their own paths using his source material as a guide. The diversity of styles in this set is staggering especially given that all 11 discs worth of music is derived from the same family of tunes. Intimidating, but so worthwhile.

AMN Reviews: Sonologyst – Phantoms [Unexplained Sounds Group]; Kyle Motl & Zach Rowden – Gristle [Confront Recordings ccs97]

When Pierre Schaeffer asserted that musique concrète would provoke musicians to discard old habits vis-à-vis sound and return to actual experience, he helped point the way toward a paradoxical sound art where the concrete becomes abstract and seemingly simple sounds instead reveal themselves to be complex objects. Although very different from each other, two recordings, one electronic and one acoustic, meet on the common ground of Schaeffer’s paradox.

The concrete element in Phantoms, the album by Italian sound artist Sonologyst, is the pre-recorded material that serves as the foundation for Sonologyst’s explorations of sound structure and timbre. The album’s evocative soundscapes are made up of apparently old and more recent recordings of voice, non-Western music, and other, less identifiable sources, which are looped and broken up into cyclical and/or textural objects seasoned with Sonologyst’s own electronic tones. Phantoms clearly is descended from classic musique concrete, but it is tweaked and shaped by contemporary technologies and sensibility.

By contrast Gristle, by the American double bassists Kyle Motl and Zach Rowden, is grounded in the concrete reality of the raw sounds issuing from acoustic instruments. Both Motl and Rowden have long demonstrated a facility for coaxing new and startling sounds from their instruments through the application of foreign objects and unconventional techniques; put together here, the effect is exponential rather than simply additive. Not surprisingly, Gristle documents a vortex of sound in an idiolect far removed from the double bass’s ordinary voice, as Motl and Rowden forcibly extract overtones from plucked and bowed tones, exposing them as the sometimes knotty complexes that they secretly are. Although purely acoustic, Gristle does what Schaeffer declared that musique concrète would do: nothing less than bring to awareness the appearance and development of sound forms and colors.

https://sonologyst.bandcamp.com/

https://www.confrontrecordings.com/

Coming to Portland

Source: Creative Music Guild.

Warm Climate & TBA
July 3rd, 2019 — 8-10pm
$5-15, sliding scale
Turn Turn Turn
8 NE Killingsworth

Kevin Murray Trio (SF) & TBA
July 17th, 2019 — 8-10pm
$5-15, sliding scale
Turn Turn Turn
8 NE Killingsworth

Lubelski+bassett (nyc) / krausbauer+suzuki (oak) + the Tenses
August 21st, 2019 — 8-10pm
$5-15, sliding scale
Turn Turn Turn
8 NE Killingsworth

New York’s Roulette Closes Out 40th Season

Source: Roulette.

Saturday, July 20 at 8pm
Nels Cline with Zeena Parkins
Ikue Mori and Craig Taborn
Matana Roberts
Sylvie Courvoisier Trio (with Drew Gress and Kenny Wollesen)

Wilco guitarist Nels Cline and pioneer harpist Zeena Parkins headline the first concert, on July 20. Night One will also feature the innovative noise improviser Ikue Mori in a duo with pianist Craig Taborn. One of the most creative pianists of the downtown scene, Sylvie Courvosier brings her trio featuring bassist Drew Gress and drummer Kenny Wollesen. And Matana Roberts—who’s been dubbed “the spokeswoman for a new, politically conscious and refractory music scene” (Jazzthetik)—will play a set on alto saxophone.

Sunday, July 21 at 8pm
John Zorn’s Simulacrum (John Medeski, Matt Hollenberg and Kenny Grohowski)
JG Thirlwell
John Medeski
Val Jeanty and Fay Victor

On Night Two, July 21, the all-star organ trio Simulacrum (John Medeski, Matt Hollenberg, and Kenny Grohowski) performs compositions by John Zorn that incorporate elements of metal, jazz, minimalism, atonality, and noise. Acclaimed keyboardist John Medeski will also perform a solo set on organ. Val Jeanty, who uses sound sampling and technology to explore her self-created genre, AfroElectronica, is joined by the dazzling and acrobatic improvisational vocalist Fay Victor. And JG Thirlwell plays a solo set with electronics, prepared piano, and theremin in front of an immersive backdrop of new visuals created by Sten Backman.

The Free Jazz Collective Reviews

Source: The Free Jazz Collective.

Milford Graves: Music Meets Medicine and Science

Rachel Musson / Pat Thomas / Mark Sanders – Shifa: Live at Cafe Oto (577 Records, 2019) ****

Tyler Damon & Dave Rempis – Full Yum (Park 70, 2018) ****½

Trumpet & Drums

Lee Ranaldo/Jim Jarmusch/Marc Urselli/Balázs Pándi – s/t (Trost, 2019) ***

William Parker’s In Order to Survive – Shapeshifter (Aum Fidelity, 2019) ****½

Extended Techniques NYC Calendar for  July 2019 

Source: extended techniques.

FRIDAY, July 5
6:30PM Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra at The Met Breuer
Ekmeles with Bruce Brubaker
Charlotte Mundy, soprano
Amber Evans, soprano
Jeffrey Gavett, baritone
Steven Hrycelak, bass
Music by John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Philip Glass, and early medieval monophony
https://www.facebook.com/events/2055131314613407
VENUE: The Met Breuer
ADMISSION: free with Museum admission

FRIDAY, July 5
8PM The Stone Series: Matthew Shipp – piano, Ivo Perelman – sax
VENUE: happyluckyno1
ADMISSION: $20

SATURDAY, July 6
1PM Rite of Summer Presents: Sandbox Percussion
Haiku 2 – Andy Akiho
Interdependence – Brendon Randall-Myers World Premiere
Dark Full Ride – Julia Wolfe
Bell Patterns – Victor Caccese
Postlude 6 – Elliot Cole
Sonata – Jonny Allen
Drumming part 1 – Steve Reich
https://www.facebook.com/events/309242976684290/
VENUE: Nolan Park, Governors Island
ADMISSION: free

SATURDAY, July 6
3:30pm Crystal Penalosa | Jil Guyon | Thessia Machado
https://www.womenbetweenarts.com
VENUE: The New School Glass Box Theater (55 W 13th St, New York)
ADMISSION: $5 – $18

TUESDAY, July 9
8:30pm LEMMA—Music by John Zorn
Pauline Kim Harris (violin), Christopher Otto (violin), Ches Smith (drums)
Passagen for solo violin / Apophthegms for two violins / Ceremonial Magic for violin and drums.
VENUE: The Stone
ADMISSION: $20

FRIDAY, July 12
8:30 PM Responses to the Bach Chaconne—Music by Pauline Kim Harris, Missy Mazzoli, Elizabeth Hoffman, Yoon-Ji Lee, Annie Gosfield and John King
Pauline Kim Harris (violin)
Pauline Kim Harris A Spiral Is A Line (2019) WORLD PREMIERE Missy Mazzoli Dissolve, O My Heart (2010) Elizabeth Hoffman morsels (2018) US PREMIERE Yoon-Ji Lee Shakonn (2014) Annie Gosfield Long Waves and Random Pulses (2012) John King C-H-A-C-O-N-N-E (2013).
VENUE: The Stone
ADMISSION: $20

FRIDAY, July 12
8 PM Phonon (Sharp/Domene/Marston/Walter) / Chaser / Ir
· Phonon ·
New group formed by Elliott Sharp (guitar), Álvaro Domene (guitar), Colin Marston (bass), and Weasel Walter (drums).
Chaser
Dominika Em (Nebadon/Angel of Retribution) – vocals
Chris Welcome – guitar (HOT DATE)
Shayna Dulberger (Cellular Chaos/ HOT DATE) – bass
Oran Canfield (Child Abuse) – drums
· Ir ·
Mick Barr (guitar)
Erik Malave (bass)
https://www.facebook.com/events/479865599426039/
VENUE: Brooklyn Bazaar’s Cellar Lounge (150 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn)
ADMISSION: $15

SATURDAY, July 13
8PM The Stone Series: Daniel Carter (wind instruments), Louie Belogenis (soprano & tenor saxophones), Eivind Opsvik (bass), Ryan Sawyer (drums)
VENUE: happyluckyno1
ADMISSION: $20

Sunday, July 14
3 PM 75 Dollar Bill | Bang on a Can Music Series
Plywood crate percussionist Rick Brown and guitarist Che Chen make electric, richly patterned music that can shape-shift from joyful dance tunes to slowly changing trance minimalism
https://www.facebook.com/events/2563350177225291/
VENUE: Noguchi Museum (33rd Road, Long Island City, NY)
ADMISSION: free with Museum admission

FRIDAY, July 19
8:30 PM No Signal
Aaron Novik (clarinet in A) Jeremiah Cymerman (clarinet in Bb) Ava Mendoza (guitar) Ches Smith (vibes) Shayna Dunkelman (xylophone) Nick Millevoi (guitar)
VENUE: The Stone
ADMISSION: $20

FRIDAY, July 19
7:30PM Oliver Beer: Vessel Orchestra at The Met Breuer
Matana Roberts with Darius Jones
https://www.facebook.com/events/2055131327946739
VENUE: The Met Breuer
ADMISSION: free with museum admission

FRIDAY, July 20
8:30 PM Aaron Novik (clarinets) Thomas Heberer (trumpet) Patrick Holmes (clarinet) Steve Swell (trombone) Cornelius Boots (shakuhachi)
VENUE: The Stone
ADMISSION: $20

SATURDAY, July 20
8PM Roulette’s 40th Season Closeout Party
Ikue Mori and Craig Taborn
Matana Roberts
Nels Cline with Zeena Parkins
Sylvie Courvoisier Trio (with Drew Gress and Kenny Wollesen)
VENUE: Roulette
ADMISSION: $20

SUNDAY, July 21
9 PM Onyx Ashanti
Onyx Ashanti is a musician, programmer, and inventor of the Sonocyb, a continually evolving, malleable interface of prosthetic synthesizer controllers that Onyx 3D prints at home and uses to articulate electronic sound in conjunction with bodily motion.
VENUE: Bar Laika by e-flux (224 Greene Ave, Brooklyn)
ADMISSION: free, RSVP

THURSDAY, July 25
7:30 pm Fure & Thorvaldsdottir
International Contemporary Ensemble
Program
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Illumine (2016)
Anna Thorvaldsdottir: Sequences (2016)
Ashley Fure: Esoteric Mass (2014)
Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir: Something to Hunt (2014)
http://www.lincolncenter.org/atrium/show/fure-and-thorvaldsdottir-1
VENUE: David Rubenstein Atrium (Lincoln Center)
ADMISSION: free, RSVP

FRIDAY, July 26
7:30 PM and 9:30PM
Tim Berne -saxophone
Justin Faulkner -drums
Matt Mitchell -piano
VENUE: Jazz Gallery
ADMISSION: $25-$35

FRIDAY, July 26
8PM Steve Dalachinsky and Loren Connors
https://www.facebook.com/events/466349787450032/
VENUE: Synesthesia
ADMISSION: TBD

SATURDAY, July 27
7PM Susie Ibarra’s “Rhythm Cycles”
w/the special guest from London
VENUE: happyluckyno1
ADMISSION: $15-$20

SATURDAY, July 27
7:30 PM and 9:30PM
Tim Berne -saxophone
Justin Faulkner -drums
Matt Mitchell -piano
VENUE: Jazz Gallery
ADMISSION: $25-$35

WEDNESDAY, July 31
8:30 pm Thunder and Flowers
Ava Mendoza (guitar) William Parker (bass, gimbri) Cooper Moore (banjo) Kevin Murray (drums)
VENUE: The Stone
ADMISSION: $20