Tuesday, January 03, 2017

John Zorn - The Classic Guide to Strategy - Vol. 4 (Tzadik, 2016)

I have often thought that as much as I enjoy John Zorn's composing that I miss the sound of his saxophone. This album slakes that thirst in an extraordinary fashion. This is one of his most personal projects, solo saxophone improvisations, which have been developing over the course of more than forty years. Using the instrument as sound creation device, he builds a musical language of amazing versatility. "The Wind Book 1" has raw and scouring bleats and squeaks that create their own individual sound universe as Zorn's saxophone plays off against the empty space, and uses it as a dueling partner. Long blasts of sound are exciting in a frightening manner. Quick bobs and flutters are played and then the almost impossibly high pitches of the longer tones as the music becomes devastating in its intensity. He is able to create percussive popping sounds, that are like hollow percussion and juxtapose them against long slow foghorn like tones. Circular swathes of sound rotate faster and faster, building up centripetal force that is very powerful, using kinetic energy and potential energy to create a unique improvisatory sound, while also tapping and lightly playing the keys of the instrument to create a percussion sound. There are longer tones of sound on "The Wind Book 2" and shorter bursts that play off against the earlier vocabulary, with fluttering gasps and windy squeals. Sounds like metal rending, and softer sounds give the music an incredible variety, and stark growls evoke monstrous pain. He uses silence as a way to sculpt his sound and hone it to a razor sharpness, creating his own styles and situations, whether referencing jazz or music from beyond any conceivable category. "The Wind Book 3" is where scarred vocal like sounds stretch the music as arcs of pure sound rip overhead.  It's possible to hear the sounds of insects, birds, and other animals big and small clamoring about within the music. Stark and spacious darker tones begin "The Wind Book 4" and the sounds evolve and dissipate in a brooding and melancholy fashion, creating a haunted and cinematic landscape. There is space to allow saxophone to resonate with stark cries filling the air, with spacious lines of sound that come as a surprise considering what had come before. Finally, "The Wind Book 5" expands the music with sheer volume and dense energy, with shapes and figures blending into one massive edifice. It's hard to believe that this is a continuous solo set from one individual creating in real time. The music is shocking to hear, but it is not played for shock value. This is one man crying out in a unique voice that he has spent a lifetime honing. The Classic Guide to Strategy - Vol. 4 - amazon.com

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