In 2013, when John Zorn was turning sixty years old, The New York Times dubbed the saxophonist “the most prolific and polarizing figure in New York’s downtown scene” and “a major American composer whose work crosses just about every stylistic boundary imaginable.”
In 2013, when John Zorn was turning sixty, The New York Times dubbed the saxophonist “the most prolific and polarizing figure in New York’s downtown scene” and “a major American composer whose work crosses just about every stylistic boundary imaginable.” The occasion was [email protected], a worldwide celebration of his music’s awesome cumulative power at Lincoln Center, the Met, and other high temples of the traditions he was once said to delight in desecrating. But however canonical he becomes, Zorn remains an iconoclast who cracks open musical forms with such persuasive brilliance that they body forth new ones. No other name rings out as thoroughly in the last forty years of experimental music.
Since the early eighties, Zorn has released dozens of albums, many on his own label, Tzadik, a radically self-sufficient bastion of uncaged music, from pristine classical and mystical jazz to crusty noise. The contents of those albums are famously varied, including riotous free-jazz interpretations of Ennio Morricone, hardcore punk versions of Ornette Coleman, procedurally generated “game pieces,” and superb orchestral and choral writing. Zorn has led the experimental rock band Naked City, the grindcore band Painkiller, and the definition-scoffing Masada. He’s worked with almost literally everyone, from Bill Frisell to Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson, though his stature is such that others are usually said to have worked with him.
Zorn’s restless invention was last bottled in Chaos Magick, which will be highlighted in one of the eight concerts that he and a large cast of esteemed musicians will give at Big Ears. Some of the guests are featured elsewhere in the festival, while others are coming solely to perform with the signal light of the American avant-garde, whose only conventions are collaboration, curiosity, and the conviction that the story of music will be unfinished until the last note sounds.
Nove Cantici Per Francesco D’Assisi
With Bill Frisell, Gyan Riley & Julian Lage
Songs for Petra Haden
with Jessie Harris, Petra Haden, Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder & Kenny Wollesen
with Kenny Grohowski, Matt Holllenberg & John Medeski
The Hermetic Organ
Featuring John Zorn, pipe organ
18 Studies from the Later Sketchbook of J.M.W. Turner
With Stephen Gosling, piano
Heaven & Earth Magick
with Stephen Gosling, Sae Hoshimoto, Jorge Roeder & Ches Smith
With Kenny Grohowski, Matt Hollenberg & John Medeski
New Masada Quartet
With Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder, Kenny Wollesen & John Zorn