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Saturday, December 24, 2011

John Zorn – A Dreamer’s Christmas (Tzadik, 2011)


John Zorn immediately brings to my mind Naked City; I just cannot seem to help it. Even after all these years that box set still seems novel and unfermented to my ears. Post Naked City, the prolific recorder John Zorn is, he has embarked on many an adventure with Masada (in its various incarnations like Electric Masada, Masada String Trio), Bar Kokhba, and his Book of Angels series immediately coming to mind. 

"A Dreamer's Christmas" is Zorn's 5th release of this year (!!!) and it is and ideal arrival to festoon the holiday spirit. The album plays house to a mind boggling array of talent - Cyro Baptista (Percussion), Joey Baron (Drums), Trevor Dunn (Acoustic And Electric Basses), Mike Patton (Vocal), Marc Ribot (Guitars), Jamie Saft (Keyboards), Kenny Wollesen (Vibes, Chimes, Glockenspiel) - an assemblage of names that is nothing short of jaw dropping promising one hell of a ride.

I have to admit right away that I am not familiar with most of the Christmas tunes present here ("Santa's Workshop" and "Magical Sleigh Ride" are the only original compositions in this album), so for me the entire album plays out as fresh material. There is the unmistakable presence of the warmth that was the hallmark of the Dreamers and O'o albums (volumes four and five of the Music Romance series sporting identical personnel). 

Kicking off things is "Winter Wonderland" that has Kenny Wollesen's vibes resounding pleasantly before the entire band just eases into the song developing it into a lilting melody that keeps humming in your mind - beautiful. "Snowfall" and "Christmas Time Is Here" follows in similar flair with the latter pushing Jamie Saft and Cyro Baptista onto the limelight for they indulge in some magical keyboards work and the most delicate percussion that I have heard. The next track is the first of Zorn's originals that ups the tempo just a notch and this song carries some of the most delicate Ribot solos - an absolute indulgence.

I can go on track by track but I think you get a picture of what is in store in this album - titillating guitar work, soaring keyboards and the calming vibes take centre stage throughout with a rhythm section that cannot have been more solid. The entire album floats and remains swimming around your head while it is busy trying to sort out the innumerable melodies that are taking control of your ears. "Let it Snow" is one of my favourite tracks that starts off with gentle Trevor Dunn bass lines laying the ground for Ribot and Saft to take over - the solos that these men churn out are just phenomenally sweet (yes, that's the best and most apt word I can come up with, you have to listen to enjoy the sugar in this song!!). 

The other one that my head refused to let go is "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" - starting in the most bizarre vein this album ever gets, Joey Baron finally gets a chance to remind us of his awesome presence in this one track where he lets rip and the bass work is incessant and quivering and don't even get me started on what Jamie Saft does in this track. Well, there I go - I just shot myself in the feet, I started decrypting track by track didn't I? I cannot seem to help it for I really don't have one or two favourites in this album - the entire album just has just taken root in my head and it is on continuous play. I will leave it to you guys to figure out what "Magical Sleigh Ride" and "The Christmas Song" do to your ears. One more thing, Mike Patton graces the last song - not a la PainKiller or Faith No More mode, this is Christmas spirit élan and he ends up doing total justice.

I really don't know what genre this fantastic album belongs to - one thing though there is adventure all over and I had a ball of a time with these songs unraveling one by one, I can almost imagine everyone smiling to themselves while making this album!! It is just so rich yet so light hearted and the music is so densely and beautifully layered making it a guarantee that there are innumerable nuances to be discovered upon each listen. The technicality of the music and the mixing is eclectic for there is a blend of so many styles here that there is no point listing them down.

While this is NO Naked City or scorching, complex or intricate jazz it still is enjoyable, to sum up - A Dreamer's Christmas - Avant Garde? No. Free Jazz? Barely. 

Fun? Oh Boy, YES! - a Merry Christmas Indeed.

Listen and download from Itunes



Stef said...

When I saw the cover of this album a while ago, I thought it was a joke, ... but it is not a joke. It is for real. The album exists and it sounds like Ananth describes it. Yet somehow it is a joke by Zorn, as a sidestep from his "Radical Jewish Culture" series, but if it ever becomes commercially succesful, you can bet on it that he will turn it into a series ... to "Radical Christian Culture". God beware us!


Bostjan said...

No LIKE button :( So, I liked your comment. Nice one, Stef.

Anonymous said...

Nice review but NO stars ?!!