Thursday, July 03, 2008

John Zorn w/ George Lewis and Bill Frisell - News For Lulu (Hatology, 1985, 2008)

This is a most welcome reissue of a very surprising disc. Saxophonist John Zorn was a leading light of the downtown New York City avant-garde scene, mixing the music of Ornette Coleman to diverse types of ethnic and film music to create new sonic textures. Guitarist Frisell was a member of Zorn's Naked City unit, but was already beginning to explore the Americana music that would make him famous. Trombonist George Lewis, a music historian and member of the AACM, knew the breadth and width of African-American musical history. The idea behind this disc was for the old to meet the new, as the trio played a selection of forgotten songs from the Blue Note record label recorded in the 1950's by the likes of Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham and Freddie Redd. When this disc was originally recorded, compact disc reissues of historical music were in their infancy, and the originals were not available readily. The revelation at the time was that these "avant-gardists" could play straight ahead hard bop with flair and originality. This really shouldn't have surprised anybody, as these three men were very experienced musicians, who had listened widely and absorbed much of the great jazz music that came before them. Highlights are many on this disc, starting with Dorham's "KD's Motion" that has a joyous swing and happy feel. Sonny Clark's "News for Lulu" and "Sonny's Crib" are featured as well as a live and studio version of "Funk in Deep Freeze." The music throughout is very accessible, with Zorn and Lewis trading off front line duties and ensemble passages, an Frisell backing and soloing with angular momentum. This is what a tribute album should be: a true re-evaluation and remembrance of the music for music of the past by musicians that are pushing relentlessly towards the future.

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