John Zorn: Bagatelles
Mary Halvorson Quartet & Trigger
Between March-May of 2105 John Zorn set about writing a new book of compositions, following the massive collection of tunes he’d penned for his quartet Masada. The Masada book was soon interpreted by a diverse array of artists, some pre-existing, some assembled specifically by Zorn for the project. He ended up writing over 300 pieces for that second book, Bagatelles, embracing a more atonal approach to inspire greater improvisational possibilities. In the years since, a variety of ensembles have forged close connections to the pieces Zorn assigned to them, and the groups performing during Big Ears have fully internalized the works.
This particular Bagatelles program spotlights two radically disparate ensembles that both feature guitar as the lead instrument. Mary Halvorson, arguably the most important jazz guitarist to emerge in the 21st century, leads an excellent quartet in which her instantly recognizable sound meshes with another of New York’s most fascinating and versatile guitarists, Miles Okazaki, an established bandleader and composer in his own right. Backed by the agile rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, they push and pull Zorn’s elegant themes, digging deep into seemingly effortless interplay where the guitars possess liquid qualities in both unison and contrapuntal patterns. The approach taken by the New York trio Trigger couldn’t be more different. The band—guitarist Will Greene, drummer Aaron Edgcomb, and electric bassist Simon Hanes—bring out Zorn’s prog-rock tendencies with a furious post-punk intensity.