John Zorn: Not All About Jazz
Each of September's four Wednesdays will provide a midweek repast by highlighting a different game piece. Game pieces force the musical participants to abide by a series of rules. A prompter acts as manager and modifier by using hand signals and/or flashcards to clue and direct the action. An upturned thumb may mean a particular sound or coloration. A certain card flashed may mean something more complex. The result can be unexpected for all involved including the musicians and listeners. This approach to the improvisatory action imparts an underlying semi-structure that may not be evident to the listener, as in most cases they are unaware of the rules. Rules can be simple or quite complex. For example, one of "Hockey's" rules limits the number of sounds an improviser is allowed to play, while in "Cobra" there are situations that allow exemption from the rules for a certain number of beats. A key to the presentation of these pieces is the adaptability and the skill of the musicians involved. In addition to series opener "Cobra," which has been the most performed game piece, "Hockey," "Lacrosse," "Rugby," "Bezique," "Xu Feng," "Fencing" and "Locus Solus" are also scheduled.
The weekends start on Thursday, and for 3 nights each week the " tonic" will play host to the bands. The opening Thursday set features a hit of the recent Visions Festival, the "Masada String Trio". As featured on the Tzadik CD, The Circle Maker, cellist Erik Friedlander, violinist Mark Feldman, and bassist Greg Cohen perform precise interpretations of pieces from the Masada songbook with John Zorn conducting. Emblematic of the entire program's variety, the mosh pit inducing sounds of the trio, "Painkiller," pick up the first Friday and Saturday night sets. This incarnation includes Zorn on sax, bassist Bill Laswell and newest member Hamid Drake on drums and percussion. The following weekend opens with "The Gift," an inquiry into mellow moods; sit back relax and enjoy. "Bar Kochba," or Masada Chamber Ensembles, holds forth the next two nights and features many of the Masada project musicians presenting elegantly arranged versions of pieces from their songbook. "Masada" and "Electric Masada" close out the final two weekends and are slated for two full 3-night performances unto themselves. "Electric Masada" is a recent venture composed of Zorn, Marc Ribot, "New Klezmer Trio" drummer Kenny Wollensen, Cyro Baptista's intriguing percussion, Jamie Saft's keyboard/synth stylings and Trevor Dunn's bass; it as its name implies, the electric version of "Masada".
Sundays are devoted to concert works and showcase the most overtly classical music of the month. During this time "Sortilege" and "Neconomicon" will world premiere. "The Complete String Quartets," that include an interpretation of the sacred Jewish melody "Kol Nidre" and "Memento Mori" dedicated to Ikue, begin these presentations. The following Sunday, the three chamber pieces that comprise the Tzadik CD Love, Madness and Mysticism; "Le M'mo," "Untitled" and "Amour Fou" will be performed. These are written for piano and violin, solo cello and piano trio respectively. "Chimeras," a chamber work in 12 movements and "Goetia: Incantations for Violin" round out the Sunday programs. With a month as diverse as this, John Zorn is most assuredly not all about jazz; it would be much more accurate to say he is all about music.