Friday, September 13, 2019

John Zorn - Nove Cantici Per Francesco D’Assisi (Tzadik, 2019)

This album is a suite of music John Zorn composed for the Frick Gallery to commemorate the life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Played by the acoustic guitar trio of Bill Frisell, Gyan Riley and Julian Lage, the music has a sense of understated and meditative beauty unique among Zorn's oeuvre. "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" opens the album with gentle intertwined guitars playing at an open ended medium tempo, demonstrating deft acoustic guitar playing, leading into "Admonitions" which has a lonely and elegiac feeling to it, as the music seems to be tinged with regret. The guitars play across and above each other, creating a sense of depth, and allowing the notes an chords to ring out in a sonorous manner. "Nativity" has a spare and open cinematic climate, creating a fresh sound where jagged sparks of notes can shoot outward creating interesting dynamic shifts. There is a bright and bouncy sensation to "Laudes Creaturarum" with a happy sounding and memorable theme that builds a full sound played at a louder volume. "Poor Clares" is quiet and open with fewer notes, with a ballad like sense of longing as the clear notes ring out in a spare and subtle fashion. More pointed and craggy sounds announce "Sister Death" with sharp edged notes and chords that cut through the air. The music is palpably darker and more foreboding than what has come before, with swift bursts of notes and chords as one guitarist supports the others in the building of the imposing narrative. "Mother Earth" begins with careful probing of the available space, leading to a guitar combination of gentle melodicism, using chiming chords and quiet notes. The combination of instruments is subtle and free from ego and competition, creating a warm cohesive sound. Bass like note hold the foundation on "Le Laudi" with lighter chords strumming over the top. They build to a faster performance that pushes forward with propulsive clear notes juxtaposed against choppy chords to create a sense of forward motion and a colorful and exciting performance. "Fioretti" builds in a subtle fashion, with complex interplay between the musicians creating twists and complex angles which reflect and refract the shape and speed of the music. The album concludes with "Meditations" which is quiet and haunting, delighting in the atmospheric spaciousness as the instruments are playing together. This album worked very well as a whole, the musicians are extremely talented and the compositions that John Zorn gave them to interpret played to their strengths. The music is humble and restrained, and the personnel give of themselves for the success of the whole. Nove Cantici Per Francesco D'Assisi -

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