John Zorn: Incerto
Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder, Brian Marsella & Ches Smith
Building on the resounding success and creative potency of his Suite for Piano, a 10-movement piano trio project inspired by Bach and Schoenberg, John Zorn next envisioned this thrilling quartet outing. This group features the same sublime cast of the Suite—which is performed elsewhere at this year’s Big Ears—with pianist Brian Marsella, bassist Jorge Roeder, and drummer Ches Smith. As with the trio, the music Zorn composed here rigorously surveys different currents in post-bop, with ferociously swinging grooves supporting vibrant melodic shapes. As usual, the material is tricky, filled with surprising twists and turns that require the musicians to stop on a dime.
Zorn upped the ante for Incerto by inviting guitarist Julian Lage, one of the most sublime practitioners of his instrument at work today, into the proceedings. Zorn has worked with Lage in various contexts, including in the New Masada Quartet as well as the latter’s dynamic interpretations of the composer’s writing for Nove Cantici, a three-guitar dreamworld featuring Lage, Gyan Riley, and Bill Frisell (who are also appearing in this year’s festival). In this new quartet the guitarist fits right in, engaging in an ever-changing connection with Marsella. Zorn doesn’t play in this project, but for fans of his jazz-oriented work this delivers all of the hallmarks, whether through lovely, harmonically kaleidoscopic balladry or high-octane blasts that update bebop for the 21st century.