Every jazzhead (especially those who love Zorn) has had a moment when someone walks in midway through an experimental jazz album. A series of internalized thoughts and judgments take place, from both parties, in a single instant. The internal dialogue of each person goes something like this:
Person at door: What the hot holy hell is this shit?
Person at door: There’s no way they’re enjoying this.
Person at door: Why are they listening to this? They’re probably wanting to look smart, edgy, or cool.
Person at door: Wait… maybe they knew I’d be here. They probably put this on so I would come in and see them listening to it.
Person at door: Well that’s sorta creepy. What person does that?
Person at door: They’re probably insecure. They might be on the edge.
Person at door: They might even be unstable. There’s something definitely wrong with them. Maybe…
Jazzhead: I should have used fucking headphones.
John Zorn is a god. Sorry atheists, you were wrong. But don’t worry, hell doesn’t exist. Instead of hell, you’ll just get to continue living a Zorn-less existence. This may not seem cruel. But, one day, when you see the beauty, wonder, and boundlessness that is Zorn, you’ll wonder if the sweet release of a Hadean flame would have been the better option.
Zorn (sax), Lewis (trombone), and Frisell (guitar) are all revolutionary at their specific trade. I cannot emphasize this enough. They are fucking legends. Each has pushed the bounds of what their instrument can do and what music can be. This album, released in ’88, could have only been made through the accumulative expertise, dexterity, and total transcendental fucking ingenuity that each of these three fucking doyen virtuosos could provide. This is the Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman of the jazz world and this album is the fucking playoffs.
This album is based on the structure of bebop jazz. You know, that late ’50s early ’60s “Tisk ta-ta tisk ta-ta tisk” type shit. But it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. There’s no percussion or bass on this album. Instead, Zorn, Lewis, and Frisell swirl and twirl around each other in perfect unison and, somehow, fill the void with an ever-moving progression towards the new and the wonderful. When it comes to Zorn, who is known to be very experimental at times, this album is Zorn-lite. It’s a perfect introduction into this world. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. You’ve got to stay with this shit from the start. Lose the momentum and you lose the song. That’s how it works. Zorn’s music, much like a person swatting away a swarm of bees, looks fucking insane from a certain distance. But, if you listen into the music, stay with it the entire way, you’ll be able to experience such climactic builds and releases that you’ll need a cigarette afterwards. And, one day, you’ll be deep into this shit, completely entranced by its movement and structure, and someone will barge into the room. You’ll catch their eye. They’ll catch yours. And all you’ll think to yourself, as you witness their incredulity, is “Fuck.”