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Thursday, May 4, 2017

John Zorn - "Naked City" CD, Album, U.S., 1990 (Nonesuch)


When I was living in Japan in 1989/1990, it was impossible to go to a good music store and not run into a large John Zorn section.  Zorn at the time had a Japanese label and was living in Osaka.  Me, having a lot of time on my hands, started to investigate the world of Zorn, which is (and still) like jumping into Alice's rabbit hole.  One never knows what they will find at the end of that hole.  The one CD I purchased was Zorn's "Naked City," which is also the name of his all-star band.  Fred Frith on bass (mostly known as a guitarist), Bill Frisell on guitar, Wayne Horvitz on Keyboards, and Joey Baron on drums Zorn on sax, with the Boredoms' Yamatsuka Eye on vocals.   At the time, I thought this would be a good introduction to the world of John Zorn, and I still think it's a great starter to the Zorn aesthetic. 

"Naked City" is a mishmash of different music styles.  Listening to the album for the first time is like going from one neighborhood to another and not being able to distinguish the differences between the areas, due to the speed of the journey.   Ultra hyper, noisy, and extreme melodic beauty all at the same time.   I never really heard music like this before, and hearing it in a foreign (at the time) land added a unique sense of intensity for me.   The very first Zorn album I purchased was in the 1980s, and it was his tribute/take on Ennio Morricone's music.  This was my first introduction to the world of Morricone, so it's interesting to be introduced to the iconic Italian genius through the medium of another genius Zorn.  

All the pieces here are short, and a burst of energy.  Even Georges Delerue's "Contempt" theme which is a beauty of a melody is done at a faster pace.   I have seen the Godard film but was never aware of the music piece till I heard this recording.  Now, I'm obsessed with getting any version of this melody on vinyl.  That with the theme of "Batman," The James Bond Theme," Mancini's "A Shot in the Dark," and the great "The Sicilian Clan" by Morricone.   Zorn, without a doubt, introduced me to the world of soundtracks.   The Morricone tribute album opened the door, and "Naked City" nailed me down for life. 

The Zorn compositions on the album are soundtracked based, but with distinct experimental or free jazz traces, but still held consistently by the insanely tight playing by the band.  So here you have music of great beauty, punk rock, experimental, and free-form jazz, with a touch of noise, courtesy of Eye the vocalist.   A great album with fantastic graphics (normal with Zorn's recordings) and for me, a wonderful introduction to not only to Zorn's compositions and playing but to the deep-end world of soundtrack music.