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Thursday, April 25, 2024

John Zorn - Parrhesiastes (Tzadik, 2023)

 By Don Phipps

One thing about John Zorn: he never ceases to surprise. And “Parrhesiastes” is exhibit A. Performed by the electric Chaos Magick ensemble – which features two keyboard players (John Medeski on organ and Brian Marsella on Fender Rhodes piano), an electric guitarist (Matt Hollenberg) and drummer (Kenny Grohowski) – “Parrhesiastes” is an entertaining and enjoyable romp through three Zorn surreal and fantastic compositions (Zorn also arranged and conducted the ensemble). The music resembles a rubber band, something that both stretches and retains form. Or maybe metamorphosis is a better description, as the music morphs from one catchy mood to the next, and no matter how abrupt the change, it still holds together.

Zorn has been pushing the boundaries of music his entire career. It’s been four decades since his groundbreaking Naked City group hit the scene, and three decades since his Masada group reimagined free music using, as he put it, “Jewish scales.” And while these efforts are still potent today, Zorn, now 70, has never rested on his laurels. “Parrhesiastes”– fusion done the Zorn way - is a sonic cornucopia of head-nodding bliss.

The three numbers are all thematically playful. And each covers a lot of ground – mood, shape, and form amorphous yet connected. “In the Footsteps of Hermes” starts things off, its sweeping lines set the stage before all hell breaks loose – think Oliphants charging the defenders of Minas Tirith. Grohowski offers up some exquisite power drumming – and it’s fun to hear Medeski sparkle and dance funk on the organ or Marsella hopscotch a bluesy line or two. And not to be outdone, Hollenberg’s heavy metal lines explode out of nowhere.

The Eventual Devalorization of The Perhaps” juxtaposes a funky soulful theme with Mad Hatter drives, and it seems, at times, prog rock exists at the tune’s core. Finally, “Form, Object, And Desire” wraps things up with Marsella’s high energy lines and Medeski’s full chordal offerings atop Grohowski’s dynamo drumming. There’s a brevity and lightness to many of the phrases, often interspersed with mad robotics and more funk. The result – an album that is different, unusual, and conventional at the same time!

With its almost breathtaking interchanges, “Parrhesiastes ”demonstrates the musical genius of John Zorn. How this prolific composer and artist continues to create imaginative music at such a high level is certainly a mystery, but like some modern Mozart, one can only marvel at his ever-expanding vocabulary. Highly recommended.

Watch a video here.



amroz said...

This time the music is weak, secondary and 50 years late.