John Zorn: Cobra
Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Will Greene, Brian Marsella, John Medeski, Michael Nicolas, Trevor Dunn, Simon Hanes, Sae Hashimoto, Dave Lombardo, Aaron Edgcomb, & Kenny Wollesen
One of John Zorn’s earliest and most enduring accomplishments was discovering new ways to advance the practice of free improvisation in an era where it was potentially heading toward a creative cul-de-sac. Paralleling Lawrence “Butch” Morris, who used a much different system to compose through live improvisation, Zorn devised a series of game pieces with rule-like devices imposed by the conductor/composer upon a cast required to respond in real time to visual prompts and directions.
Zorn didn’t merely find a way to recontextualize and sustain musical interest with free improv; he also helped initiate a still ongoing exploration of how to stretch, repurpose, or invigorate the practice in general. Additionally, he understood the power of gesture in performance, bringing a mix of comedy, suspense, and action to every account. The stylistic diversity of the performers for this event is par for the course, with figures from heavy metal, post-punk, contemporary classical, and post-bop commingling without a road map.