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John Zorn & Fred Frith: 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 5

June 24, 2009

Zorn and FrithGod Damn!  This album is the best demonstration of the power of free improvisation I’ve heard in a long time. I guess I’m a bit late to the party on this one since it was released 5 years ago, for John Zorn’s 50th birthday. Anyone who has heard Zorn play doesn’t need to be told that he has a rare dexterity, versatility and power as a saxophone player, and he gets to showcase his entire range of skills in this set; from jagged shards of overblown harmonics, fluttering, screeching, to lyrical keening on the fourth track ‘Four Corners’. Fred Frith guitar work is astonishing too; my previous experience of his playing comes mainly from Henry Cow and Art Bears albums rather than as an improvisor, but he produces some glorious textures and he and Zorn seem almost telepathically linked at times as they duck and  weave around each others playing. Listening to his playing it struck me that much of his style is exactly what I try to achieve in my improvising, and hearing it done so masterfully, with skill vastly beyond mine is simultaneously inspiring and a little disheartening. I’d imagine Dan Brown probably felt the same when he picked up Foucault’s Pendulum.

Staying on a Zorn-related note, I was also recently listening to his albums recorded with the`Moonchild Trio’ of Mike Patton, Joey Baron and  Trevor Dunn. They are some of the most ass-kicking, spazzed-out, powerful “Rock” music I’ve heard in ages. The fact that it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between Zorn’s saxophone and Patton’s voice is surely a compliment to both of them.

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