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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Dreamers - The Gentle Side (Tzadik, 2010)‏ **

 By Stanley Zappa

More than once Bill Dixon talked about music in terms of problems and solutions. Gerry Mulligan's quartet with Chet Baker was a solution to the problem of there being no piano. At least one semester of ensemble class with Dixon was dedicated to solving the problem of an ensemble with no drummer. Vade Mecum (5 stars, by the way) solved the problem posed by symmetric, academic sounding lines (and did so by
eliminating them all together.)

If you told me one of the problems solved by Zorn On The Gentle Side was how to extend the intro of Santana's Black Magic Woman for the entire length of a song, I'd be inclined to believe you. If you told me another problem solved was how to fill the spaces between shows on National Public Radio while simultaneously reaching out to the Grateful Dead listening demographic and their Gold Cards, I'd believe that too.

While listening, at times I found myself announcing to no one “partly sunny skies with winds out of the south west at 5 miles per hour.” Other times I found myself desperately looking for a rose to put between my teeth or a sombrero to wear—the gestures are vague enough that either would work.

As disparate as all the numbers are, they are, as suggested, unified by a gentleness. With that gentleness comes a certain anonymity. John Zorn? Really? Where?

That you can hear the professionalism in the playing and the production makes this recording that much more troubling; is there really nothing else left to do other than put out “professional” sounding stylized jazz-ish instrumentals?

An entirely unremarkable project.



Anonymous said...

I have the same feeling about a few other recent Zorn releases.

joesh said...

I once suggested the same thing on the BBC jazz forum and got completely shot down.

John Zorn has done some really great projects musical and otherwise. Unfortunately not everything he does is made of gold. But how to tell his fans is another problem?

Anonymous said...

"How to tell his fans is another problem ?"
The problem may also be that you're wrong about the dreamers ??!!
I'm not actualy a John Zorn's fan but i love the dreamers a lot.
Just got into the music in depth, that's not what it's supposed to be : easy listening...

joesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I completely agree with anonymous: Dreamer's music isn't easy listening. The problem is that almost everyone starts to listen to it with the wrong attidude.

Then rests the problem of Zorn's fans.
But it is another speech.

joesh said...

Hi Anon (#2 - I imagine).

Firstly, I didn't review 'The Dreamers', so "how to tell the fans ...", is not immediately directed at that release. However, as I stated, people seem to be very protectionist over Zorn's work. You say you're not be a regular fan, so I'm not sure why you take offence at that remark.

Secondly, I'm glad that you enjoyed 'The Dreamers', I'm sure for you the music is excellent. The fact that Stanley didn't enjoy it is (as a reviewer once told me) "just one persons opinion".

Lastly, I'm rather nonplussed on the easy listening remark, where does it mention that in the post?

Stef said...

I like the album, even if it's easy to digest, just like ice cream. I can understand Stanley's opinion, it's only like ice cream.


j said...

yeah, and that's equally valid for at least 10 of his more recent releases

Anonymous said...

To stef : the point is that it's actually NOT like ice cream, it seems to be ice cream but it's not... I'll just mention the great sense of nuances in this music.
Theses attacks remind me the time when the music of Paul Desmond or even Bill Evans was called soppiness...

Stef said...

I like ice cream!!! And good ice cream is subtle.


Alef said...

If you ignore the real purpose of the Dreamers in Zorn's discography, there is no way that you can understand the subtle complexities of the work. Reviewing this album in a free jazz blog has no sense at al, because it's the oppose of free jazz, and it was created in other language with remarkable artistry. Maybe in an exotica blog could be. You need to understand that Zorn is not by any mean just a free jazz saxophonist. He's a composer with a great range of interests and means.