John Zorn: Birthday Celebration Vol. 8 & Vol. 9
Birthday Celebration Vol. 8
Among accomplishments John Zorn has achieved with his label Tzadik is the championing of others in the improv world and perhaps the figure he's held up the most is trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. With six releases of new material and a four-disc set of reissues, Smith has now issued more recordings on Tzadik than any other label. Drummer Susie Ibarra has appeared on no less than 11 Tzadik discs, including four as leader and two more by Mephista. Ibarra and Smith, then, were a pair of obvious invitees during Zorn's 50th birthday celebration at Tonic in September 2003.
The two sets are presented in their entirety on the eighth installment of Zorn's birthday CD series, clocking in at 76 minutes with Zorn duetting with both of his guests and then in trio. Zorn and Ibarra have played together before, but the only previous release was a 5-minute track on AUM Fidelity's 1997 Vision Festival compilation. She is a great foil for him, forcing melodicism as opposed to the fine bluster of his birthday duet with Milford Graves. What Smith brings to the proceedings is a sense of patience and quietude, which is another good pull for Zorn. From beginning to end, the disc makes for a nice reminder that slow and thoughtful improvisation can be more rewarding than simply putting the pedal to the metal.
Birthday Celebration Vol. 9
Zorn might have done a disservice to himself by including The Classic Guide to Strategy Volume Three in his birthday series. His solo outings are rare enough that it will likely get the attention it deserves regardless of the cover-art motif, but in the hierarchy of Tzadik pigeonholes, Strategy Three probably deserved placement in the Composer Series; it's too important within the man's discography to risk the appearance of a party favor. Some 20 years ago, Zorn set out to record a series of five solo albums, but only got through the first two. Those two, however, remain among Zorn's most powerful recordings - intense, fragmented and challenging - and the third is no less a statement. It's not easy listening and with the plethora of Masada records and chamber compositions, it's good to hear him blow his stack again.
1 Meridian Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 4:19
2 Rising Sign Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 7:01
3 Spirit Writing Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 6:09
4 By the Mark, Eight Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 7:06
5 Visitation Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 8:33
6 Ipsissimi Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 15:59
7 Ghost Writing Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 11:56
8 The Ascending Arc Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 8:02
9 Full Fathom Five Ibarra, Smith, Zorn 6:50
Personnel: John Zorn - sax
Wadada Leo Smith - trumpet
Susie Ibarra - drums
John Zorn - sax