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Anybody read the John Zorn Interview in the May JazzTimes?

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The May issue of JazzTimes has a cover story on John Zorn, and it was one of the most satisfying interviews I've ever read in a jazz magazine. I never knew more than the basics about Zorn, but came away with a lot of respect for the guy. He's got some very strong and sound opinions. Anybody else read it?

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interesting but I would add that Richard Foreman is really a failed modernist and that Lou Reed is a continued embarrassment, sorry to say, who has not turned out anything decent in at least thirty years; Foreman has mediocre ideas that are poorly executed (based on some productions of his that I saw when he was supposedly in his prime) - as for Zorn, interesting guy but not a particularly good composer, with some strangely paternal ideas about "his" musical community - which is very limited, based on what I've seen -

Well, I'll beg to differ re: Lou Reed. I'm certainly no huge fan of his (never have been), but have always thought pretty highly of "Songs for Drella" (in collaboration with John Cale), which was only 20 years ago.

And to say that Zorn is "not a particularly good composer" is to completely ignore the huge body of Masada tunes he wrote. Not every last one is manna from heaven, but I'd put the better half of the Masada catalog up against anybody else's over the same time-frame, purely in terms of "good compositions". (I'm humming half a dozen of those tunes now, as I type this, not having heard any of them in at least 6 months.)

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Excellent read, thanks for the link. A couple of my favorite bits:

JazzTimes: I read somewhere that this is all the result of what you call “an incredibly short attention span.”

Well, that’s just some 1980s hype where Nonesuch Records was attempting to sell me as some kind of postmodern phenomenon. It’s their job to sell product, and in order to sell product they need to market you in a certain way. But I don’t think that that is a very intelligent analysis of why someone likes a lot of different kinds of music. It’s not a matter of having a short attention span, it’s a matter of living in today’s world and being a curious, creative, open-minded, intelligent individual who appreciates greatness for its own sake without putting it into any kind of academic or cultural box.

The only outlets [for writing about this kind of music] were jazz magazines. Even though it didn’t belong in that tradition or in that format, it was the only format that there was. So I feel like that created a deep misunderstanding in what this music is. People started judging this new music with the standards of jazz, with the definitions of what jazz is and isn’t, because stories about it appeared in jazz magazines. And now I’ll do a gig at the Marciac Jazz Festival and I’ll get offstage and Wynton Marsalis will say, “That’s not jazz.” And I’ll say, “You’re right! But this is the only gig I’ve got, man. Give me another festival and I’ll play there.”

I don't get where that Allen Lowe quote is from, or if we're still allowed to comment on it once it's been "disembodied"...but Zorn's musical community "is very limited"? Are you kidding me? I mean, fine if you don't like his music or whatever, but the guy has more breadth to his oeuvre than anyone I know.

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Allen bailed on his post.

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I mean, fine if you don't like his music or whatever, but the guy has more breadth to his oeuvre than anyone I know.

And i'm sure his bread (or make it hors d'oeuvre) is well buttered by now. :)

I like most of his albums from the earlier years (about up to 1997), but IMO for the last 10 years Zorn definnitely stuck in a groove. And he should stop pretending to be a serious modern composer, because his best work happens when he and his partners in crime are having fun, either intentionally or not. (Big Gundown, Naked City, Spy vs Spy, Ganryu Island, Sonny Clark Memorial Qt, Cobra (one on hatArt), etc.). John Cage and Steve Reich he is not, but even if he put up nothing but aforementioned albums he would become a solid part of jazz history.

Apparently, he can do about anything at this point and sell it (hey, he is officially a "Genius" via McArthur Grant , but in all honesty, do you see much progress in his development as an artist?

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I mean, fine if you don't like his music or whatever, but the guy has more breadth to his oeuvre than anyone I know.

And i'm sure his bread (or make it hors d'oeuvre) is well buttered by now. :)

I like most of his albums from the earlier years (about up to 1997), but IMO for the last 10 years Zorn definnitely stuck in a groove. And he should stop pretending to be a serious modern composer, because his best work happens when he and his partners in crime are having fun, either intentionally or not. (Big Gundown, Naked City, Spy vs Spy, Ganryu Island, Sonny Clark Memorial Qt, Cobra (one on hatArt), etc.). John Cage and Steve Reich he is not, but even if he put up nothing but aforementioned albums he would become a solid part of jazz history.

Apparently, he can do about anything at this point and sell it (hey, he is officially a "Genius" via McArthur Grant , but in all honesty, do you see much progress in his development as an artist?

Not to nitpick, but does being a serious composer preclude having fun?

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Zorn's an interesting guy. Masada stuff can be beautiful. His other stuff, I don't know it.

Thanks for posting the interview.

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Thanks for posting that!

If a musical orbit that has included, just to name a few, George Lewis, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, ROVA, The Ruins, Big John Patton, Joe Lovano, Lou Reed, Duck Baker, Ben Goldberg, Milford Graves, and the Kronos Quartet is "limited", I can only say that we should all have such limited musical communities!

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IMO for the last 10 years Zorn definnitely stuck in a groove. John Cage and Steve Reich he is not
You don't think that Cage or Reich could ever have been accused of being "stuck in a groove"? I like Cage's ideas, and Reich has a few pieces I enjoy, but Zorn has more music than either of them that I actually enjoy listening to. As PhillyQ alluded to, I'm not sure how much enjoyment one is allowed to induce and still be considered "serious".

Zorn has a lot of work I don't like as well, but the Masada pieces are significant...I saw Electric Masada the other month during his stint at Yoshi's...that group is less than 10 years old, and they blew my ever-lovin' mind.

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Working on a Night Lights show about Zorn right now and came across this documentary on the making of SPILLANE:

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And to say that Zorn is "not a particularly good composer" is to completely ignore the huge body of Masada tunes he wrote.

Interesting point. I greatly enjoyed the Masada recordings. His "Spy Vs. Spy - The Music of Ornette Coleman" with Tim Berne is one of my favorite recordings along with the" News for Lulu" recordings. I believe a number of the Masada live performances may still be at YouTube.

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That RS piece goes on and on, but never mentions his masterpiece (IMHO), News For Lulu, which has enuff concepts for 3 albums but it somehow doesn't get in the way of the playing which is superb by all hands who function with a togetherness that makes telepathy seems the only explanation.  Nothing else I've heard by Zorn, and v. little by anyone, even comes close.

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On 22/06/2020 at 9:20 PM, Rabshakeh said:

Fascinating interview, thanks for posting. It didn't entice me to listen to much of the music but it's great to hear him receive credit for his genre busting.

Did find 'Elegy' online, really interesting listen.

 

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I liked Zorn a fair bit at the time, but I’ve gone off him as a jazz performer and I’m not sure how I rate even the “hits” like the Big Gundown anymore (although I agree withndanasgoodstuff that News for Lulu is a good record). The article did remind me that Guts of a Virgin is a good crossover grindcore record though.

i found it interesting hearing the stories of all the metal drummers having their tastebuds wet. Many of those guys were childhood heroes of mine, but I’d never read anything about their time with or thoughts on Zorn.

what I don’t understand is why Rolling Stone is suddenly publishing an article of this length. I couldn’t see any upcoming release or retrospective that it is meant to tie into.

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Interesting read! Had no idea he had any St. Louis confections, but then article says: “After high school, Zorn studied composition at Webster College in St. Louis.” - which happens to be where my late aunt went to college (studying art and art history, back in the mid 50’s, long before Zorn would have been there - anyway, small world!

I don’t have a ton of Zorn (and there is certain a ton to be had), but I do still have all 10 of the original Masada quartet CD’s, which I bought piecemeal over a couple years, all pre-internet.

SUCH an important body of work, but after that, I decided that was enough Zorn to hold me for a while, and that’s all I have to this day.

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2 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

I liked Zorn a fair bit at the time, but I’ve gone off him as a jazz performer and I’m not sure how I rate even the “hits” like the Big Gundown anymore (although I agree withndanasgoodstuff that News for Lulu is a good record). The article did remind me that Guts of a Virgin is a good crossover grindcore record though.

i found it interesting hearing the stories of all the metal drummers having their tastebuds wet. Many of those guys were childhood heroes of mine, but I’d never read anything about their time with or thoughts on Zorn.

what I don’t understand is why Rolling Stone is suddenly publishing an article of this length. I couldn’t see any upcoming release or retrospective that it is meant to tie into.

I didn't even think of that but it's a very good point, the piece was certainly in depth. You had an interesting childhood :D

I still rate the Masada book, a deal of Book of Angels and The Dreamers. Lulu is definitely a highlight. I meant to get Spillane out for a spin but...

For a while he seemed to pop up at the Barbican on an annual visit, saw some good stuff

He's an artist who I stopped following just because of the sheer number of releases

1 hour ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Interesting read! Had no idea he had any St. Louis confections, but then article says: “After high school, Zorn studied composition at Webster College in St. Louis.” - which happens to be where my late aunt went to college (studying art and art history, back in the mid 50’s, long before Zorn would have been there - anyway, small world!

I don’t have a ton of Zorn (and there is certain a ton to be had), but I do still have all 10 of the original Masada quartet CD’s, which I bought piecemeal over a couple years, all pre-internet.

SUCH an important body of work, but after that, I decided that was enough Zorn to hold me for a while, and that’s all I have to this day.

I had the Masada run too, with some of the live albums. Got lost in a relationship breakdown - my only consolation being my years with the ex weren't lost on her musical tastes (John Surman went the same way)!!! Or, she spotted the resale value.

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