It would be hipster keen and old-school rockcrit to claim that John Zorn has a singular vision. But that’s a lie. Zorn’s vision is fractured like a broken mirror, each sharp angle reflecting back one silver sliver of adventure or another.
I still like to scare friends with YouTubes of Naked City, Zorn’s saxophone shrieking while Yamatsuka Eye screams holocaust and mayhem. Look at chill little Billy Frisell there, shaking his wang dang doodle while the cars crash all around him. Everybody Leng Tch’e tonight!
But what of the mystic Jewish freakouts of Masada, the scorched earth policy of Painkiller or the uber-Crumb crushings of the Dead Manquartets? Each describes a different frustration, another kind of beauty, a shade of ugly truth.
Let’s remember, though, that not of all of Zorn’s catalog is blood on the sidewalk. The Gnostic Preludes, for example, have a Nick Drake fragility that is sensual and spiritual—sex music for haphephobes. And the playtime jazz of the Dreamers is just fun. Fun. It’s okay to have fun.
Zorn. It’s a span, an arc, a parabola.
New York seems to think so. The city has been celebrating Zorn’s sixtieth birthday for months now, hipping the unwashed to the spaghetti soundtracks, the nuclear jams and the I-wish-I-was-Anthony-Braxton solo stuff — all of it.
This weekend isn’t the end, but it is a culmination of sorts. For the first time in its history, on Saturday (September 28), the Metropolitan Museum of Art will get its Knitting Factory on with a day-long celebration of Z.
Zorn hisself will be roving the galleries, as will Frisell; singer Mike Patton; percussionist Milford Graves; cellists Jay Campbell & Eric Friedlander; and others.
Now you understand what you just read, right — that the fucking Met is letting Mike Patton loose with the antiquities and Van Goghs and such. Go man go!
This will truly be an incredible, historic day. I think you should all take up a collection and send me there. You should also note that you get all of this knife-in-the-eye goodness for the negotiable price of your museum visit.
You’ll want to stay over and spend Sunday at (Le) Poissin Rouge, too. You will.
Look it up — Zorn@60.