Sunday, September 27, 2015

John Zorn - Inferno (Tzadik, 2015)

The work of philosopher August Strindberg, a prolific writer during the turn of the twentieth century, inspires this album of John Zorn’s compositions. Performing these compositions is a trio consisting of John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar. The music incorporates jazz, fusion and heavy rock into a fascinating crucible. “The Dance of Death” opens the album with strong drums and heavy guitar, reminiscent of Tony Williams great Emergency band from the early 1970’s, but blasted into the here and now. The music becomes hot and very fast with the drums thrashing, the guitar grinding and the organ shimmering above it all. The music is epic, heavy and intricate. The heavy metal feel of the guitar continues on “Pariah” where Grohowski develops a fine backbeat allowing Medeski and Hollenberg to go completely over the top in their improvisations. “Ghost Sonata” uses big slabs of sound to develop an oppressive feel to the music that still allows the musicians to duck and weave around; using the sheer weight of the music they are creating to sculpt their improvisations. They are able to add elements of heavy metal to jazz with confident assurance. The centerpiece of the album is “Inferno” an epic piece of music running over twenty minutes in length. The music is patient and dynamic, beginning with a quiet opening, as if it was the beginning of a ritual that was being performed. This adventurous piece of music unfolds like a suite, with sections of lightning fast interplay and ferocious sound but also softer jazzier sections. They use silence as an instrument at one point, dropping out entirely before the full trio comes roaring back in with one of their densest improvisations. The performance is very impressive and quite a feat for the trio to perform. The remaining performances are much shorter, “Blasphemy” is barely two minutes, but lifts off immediately with super fast organ and an absolutely torrid guitar solo and drum interlude that packs a hard hitting wallop. “The Powers” has a brief solo drum opening then a fast and furious guitar solo that leads the trio through a section of high speed improvisation that is scarily good. Finally, “Dreamplay” offers a slower and more mysterious atmosphere, where Hollenberg’s guitar strings long tones of liquid sound before latching onto a riff that brings the band crashing down with it’s full monstrous weight thundering to the conclusion. With Zorn's endless curiosity and the power of these excellent musicians, the music here transcends most categorization, combining the power of extreme rock and roll with improvised jazz and unique compositions to create a very powerful statement. Inferno -

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