John Zorn & Lou Reed, plus Phantom Orchard
John Zorn (born September 2, 1953 in NYC, USA) is a Jewish American composer and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist.
As a child, Zorn played piano, guitar and flute. He studied at Webster College (now Webster University) in St. Louis, Missouri, where he discovered free jazz. Dropping out of college and moving to Manhattan, Zorn gave concerts in his small apartment, playing a variety of reeds, duck calls, tapes, etc. He eventually became a major participant in the fertile Downtown experimental music scene.
In the mid 1980s he signed to the Elektra-Nonesuch label. Since then, Zorn has been quite prolific, usually putting out several new records each year.
In 2006, Zorn was named a MacArthur Fellow.
Every once in a while, you can catch him live at Tonic club in NYC where he hosts jazz jams and marathon regularly.
His breakthrough recording was perhaps 1985's The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays the Music of Ennio Morricone, wherein Zorn offered a number of often radical arrangements of Morricone's famed songs from various movies. The Big Gundown was endorsed by Morricone, and incorporated elements of traditional Japanese music, soul jazz, and other diverse musical genres.
Zorn owns the Tzadik record label and has worked with a large number of experimental musicians, particularly in improvised music. He is inspired by other artists and different musical styles. He has a special attraction to underground artists and musical styles that are extremely loud, wild, or creative. He is perhaps best known for his work with Masada, with Joey Baron (drums), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Greg Cohen (bass); Masada is an Ornette Coleman-influenced band playing compositions based on Jewish scales. The Masada songs are part of the songbook with several different arrangements. These include the Masada String Trio, Bar Kohkba, and Electric Masada. He has also played with Painkiller (a mix of grindcore and free jazz in which he is joined by Mick Harris of Napalm Death) and Naked City (an often aggressive mix of jazz, rock and thrash metal). He has also worked with musicians such as Bill Frisell, Gary Lucas, Wayne Horvitz, Derek Bailey, Cyro Baptista, Trevor Dunn, Mark Feldman, Fred Frith, Erik Friedlander, Keiji Haino, Bill Laswell, Arto Lindsay, Mike Patton, John Medeski, Ikue Mori, Robert Quine, Marc Ribot, Jamie Saft, Kenny Wolleson, and the Violent Femmes. He has written music for television and film, which has been collected in the ongoing Filmworks series of records on his label, Tzadik. Some of these are jazz-based, others are classical.
Zorn has also written several game pieces, in which performers are allowed to improvise while following certain structural rules. These works are in the main named after sports, and include Pool, Archery, and Lacrosse, as well as Cobra. He is also often noted for his postmodern, sometimes extreme, use of formal blocks, units which he combines and contrasts in various ways. Zorn discusses his history and the musical philosophy behind his early works in the book Talking Music by William Duckworth.
Most recently, he has become the principal force behind the opening of The Stone, an avant-garde performance space in New York's Alphabet City which supports itself solely on donations, giving all door revenues directly to the performers. Zorn holds the title of artistic director.
Zorn has lived and worked extensively in Japan and performs and records under the name Dekoboko Hajime, collaborating with and producing for numerous artists including Merzbow, Otomo Yoshihide, Melt Banana and of frequent collaborator Yamatsuka Eye. Many of these artists have now released albums on Tzadik and some regularly travel to New York where Zorn is based.
Lou Reed enters the twenty-first century with his genius intact and his art in fact. At this point in time, he stands with a body of work which places him at a level of rock & roll artistry where few others dwell and most fear to tread. From his very first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, his influence has been profound, if not scary. And although that landmark album met with nominal commercial success, it has sold many musicians on the possibilities suddenly available to creative imaginations. Over the years, Lou Reed has been recognized as a primal and constant force in a field where "geniuses" come and go like so many fashion plates.
Reed's work transcends time, with its beauty shimmering beneath frightening truths cloaked in the gutter. His observations and insight ring so accurately that he is often mistaken as the subject of his own art. We believe him completely. His complex visions of a temporary world in which the stakes are always rising as the bottom line grows uglier and more demanding, are the gifts of a rock & roll alchemist. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Lou Reed's gold is a must.
The singer-songwriter-guitarist's works about madness and hope, desire and treachery, reflections and addiction, are peopled by crackheads and intellectuals, angels and whores, prisoners and enforcers, wild children and diminished wolverine parents, the lost and the found in the arms of a voracious hunger disguised as life. These individuals are also confused by their own duality: accounts of memories, nightmares, visions, shadows, cartoons and mysteries all entwined in Lou Reed's love for rock & roll and its unlimited potential for salvation.
Lou Reed's America exists in previously uncharted waters. Few have explored the heart, soul, brain, underbelly and dementia of this culture more persuasively or poetically. He presents jokes like assassinations, love letters like injections and rooms with a point of view, encompassing the bleakest dead ends and the highest skies. There are no victims, only survivors. For over 30 years Lou Reed has written the American history on record, where the personal and political combine to create myth. His own mythology continues to grow, like a great peacock, wings spread - an Icarus in search of the sun.
The ultimate New Yorker's Ecstasy is the latest leap for an artist whose talents continue to astonish with wit, daring and joy. Traveling across a musical landscape that moves from paranoia through various stages of discovery, doubt and reaffirmation, it attains its apex with the postmodern symphonic power of "Like A Possum." This song follows in the stunning style and energy of "Heroin," "Sister Ray," "Coney Island Baby," Street Hassle" and "Magic and Loss" - epic pieces articulating the convergence of pure poetry, twenty-first century blues and the drive of primitive rock & roll beats.
Ecstasy has songs of undiluted cynicism cutting with Lou Reed's legendary blade, while others suggest a valiant, yet weary, romantic still in search of true love or its mirrored image. His songs sound and feel like no one else's. Reed's guitar playing has become human in its vastness, every attack infinite in its precision and passion. Once again, he is out to save lives with music, and as always, Lou Reed's weapon is that, like it or not, he is one of the few rock & rollers with the artillery to succeed.
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