BIG EARS

JOHN
ZORN

Once the enfant terrible of downtown New York’s experimental music scene, composer, saxophonist, and impresario John Zorn now presides as one of its most respected, prolific, and supportive giants. In some ways Zorn embraced the multi-stylistic ethos of Big Ears back in the 1970s, when the inveterate record collector pushed his inventive improvisational aesthetic into the compositional realm. Early game pieces like Pool, Lacrosse, and Cobra were among the first experiments in organizing free improvisation and many of Zorn’s ideas have now settled into standard practice.

Nothing if not restless, Zorn operates in many seemingly disparate worlds at once. His virtuosity on alto saxophone and his ardor for post-bop tradition has marked his career, whether assaying the compositions of 1950s hard bop figures like Freddie Redd and Sonny Clark in News for Lulu (with guitarist Bill Frisell and trombonist George Lewis) or writing a massive book of compositions for Masada, melding the sound of Ornette Coleman’s quartet with Middle Eastern scales. He’s embraced punk rock, heavy metal, and noise in a shifting array of ensembles like Naked City, Painkiller, and Simulacrum, he’s written fully composed works for soloists, chamber ensembles, and singers, and he’s embraced improvisational church organ performances. In recent years he’s presented ambitious marathon events that showcase many sides of his dizzying output, and while he’s largely eschewed performances, instead writing for others, he remains a ferocious improviser. His New Masada Quartet (with guitarist Julian Lage, drummer Kenny Wollesen, and bassist Jorge Roeder) features his playing within a nimble band that draws upon many of his diverse languages in a single setting.

Zorn has also served as an important producer, releasing dozens of recordings on his Tzadik label, documenting his own voluminous output as musician and composer while also supporting the work of a staggering number of improvisers and composers. In 2005 Zorn helped establish and curate the Stone, a vital performance location in Alphabet City that he has continued to operate after its original space closed, moving operations to the New School.

BIG EARS
Knoxville, TN · USA

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