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Compte-rendu de la journée John Zorn au Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville, le 19 mai dernier, par Bruce Lee Gallanter de Downtown Music Gallery. Ce compte-rendu est envoyé aux abonnés à la newsletter de DMG et sera disponible sur le site dans quelques temps.
The fourth and final day of Victo 2013 was called 'Zorn at Sixty', a celebration of the music of New York City composer, saxist, label-head and performance space honcho, John Zorn! For his past two decade birthday celebrations at 40 and 50 years old, Mr. John performed for thirty days of his birthday month (September) at the old Knitting Factory (at 40) and at Tonic (at 50). This year for his 60th birthday, Mr. Zorn has decided to do as many concerts in New York and around the world as is humanly possible. Hence, today (5/19/13) is the Day of Zorn with five concerts at different locations in Victoriaville, each one very different. Just a couple of days earlier, Mr. Zorn and more than twenty musicians performed an entire day at the Moers Festival in Germany while in March, Mr. Zorn presented five sets in the three hours at the Museum of Modern Art in NY, a first for MOMA. Each concert and each set featured a different set of musicians and a different type of music.
The first set of the day took place at the Cinema and was called "the Classical Connection". There three three pieces for different ensembles. The first was "Illuminations" for a trio of Stephen Gosling on piano, Trevor Dunn on acoustic bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Although the instrumentation is that of a jazz piano trio, the pianist is classically trained. Zorn has written this piece so that it does sound like a great, explosive partially free jazz piano trio. Like Zorn's writing in the late eighties/early nineties (for Naked City), this music was also ultra-tight, episodic and filled with quick changes in direction. This was a demanding work for the members of the trio who must constantly shift dynamics, tempos and styles throughout. Pianist Stephen Gosling has learned how to break free of the rigidity of much written classical music and go with the flow that connects several streams at once. "The Alchemist" is for a string quartet which must deal with a wealth difficult sections and strategies. Mr. Zorn has been writing string quartets for more than a decade and has been refining his work with a variety of ideas, genres and influences (from different artists). Some sections were super quiet and involve minute shifts in detail. Different soloists emerged and explored varying thematic material. It took complete concentration to hear all that was going on within Zorn's barbed web of kaleidoscopic colors. "The Holy Visions" featured a five piece women's choir which included Lisa Bielawa who has a disc out on Tzadik. I've heard this piece once before but it seemed longer and more involved. Although this type of choral music does remind me of music from the church, Zorn has expanded his palette by adding more layers and harmonies. What amazed me was how much complexity and diversity Zorn has gotten of five fine vocalists. The sound was often lush, sensuous, thoughtful with the vocalists weaving their voices into different layers. For me, it seems as if we couldn't tell that this was music that Zorn had written since it didn't quite sound like any of his other compositions. Other than a few unexpected twists and turns which were very subtle, this piece wasn't at all Zorn-like. Another surprise from the master of the unexpected.
Another big surprise was the next concert at Colosseum A called, "The Song Project". The concert featured three vocalists: Mike Patton, Jesse Harris and Sofia Rey, who is also a member of Mycale (female vocal quartet with a disc on Tzadik). The band featured many of the members of Electric Masada or the Dreamers: Marc Ribot on guitar, John Medeski on piano & organ, Kenny Wollesen on vibes, Trevor Dunn on contrabass, Cyro Baptista on percussion and Joey Baron on drums. For this project, Zorn had various writers (Sean Lennon, Mike Patton & Jesse Harris) write lyrics which Zorn matched up to his music. Each of the three singers had a chance to sing lead and each was very different in style and approach. What was surprising was that most of the songs sung by Mr. Harris and Ms. Rei were actually lovely, immensely charming, something you might not associate with Mr. Zorn unless you are paying attention to the many different projects that Zorn has been releasing in recent years like 'Alhambra Love Songs' or some of the Masada Books of Angels series. Jesse Harris, who has collaborated with multi-Grammy winner Nora Jones, has a lovely, fragile voice which often sounds more like a young girl. Ms. Rei sang (and wrote the words) to a piece which sounded like a bossa nova and was most sublime. The biggest surprise was that Mike Patton chose and sung two Naked City songs which showed a much different vibe to Zorn's music, his punk/jazz/surf days were in evidence, knocked us all out and made us old Naked City fans smile. Although Zorn himself didn't play here, he did conduct, cue his musicians and was indeed i charge of the flow. The band was in rare form, reinventing itself for each piece as the mood and music were different and Zorn would push each member (especially Ribot & Medeski) to add their own magic to certain songs. The last piece was dedicated to Lou Reed and had a Velvets-like dark, brooding theme with great organ from Medeski, a classic screaming guitar solo from Ribot and powerful screams from Mr. Patton. Mr. Zorn will be presenting his Vocal Project at Poisson Rouge in NYC in September of this year so try to check it out if you can.
The next set was again at Colosseum A and it was completely different. This time on the big stage it was the Moonchild ensemble performing "Templars", a premier performance in North America. Zorn has been composing a series of works which deal with both spiritual and dark themes like 'Moonchild', 'Astronome', and 'Six Litanies for Heliogabalus'. With each one, he adds another musician. 'Templars' features Mike Patton on voice, John Medeski on organ, Trevor Dunn on electric bass and Joey Baron on drums. This set was the heaviest and most intense of the Zorn Day celebration. For this work, Zorn has put together an incredible, powerful, colossal quartet with each member integral to the awesome heavy sound. For all the concerts of the day, Zorn brought up his own sound technician, Marc Urselli, who always does a great job in the studio as well as for the live setting. The original Moonchild piece was just Patton, Dunn & Baron and it was no less devastating. Everyone here was at their best, Patton's voice has never sounded better, Trevor Dunn's electric bass was monstrous, an immense tower of sound erupting and Joey Baron, longtime Zorn's secret weapon and linchpin drummer had a powerhouse sound. This piece has an almost symphonic sound, like an opera that features the voice of Satan at the center of the storm. This was one of those performances when witnessed will not be readily forgotten. Troubling, overwhelming, outstanding!
The final set at the Colosseum was Zorn's Dreamers band and Electric Masada, who share most of the same members but have a much different sound. The Dreamers feature Ribot on guitar, Jamie Saft on keyboards, Trevor Dunn on el. bass, Kenny Wollesen on vibes, Cyro Baptista on percussion and Joey Baron on drums. The Dreamers are Zorn's tribute to Martin Denny, Lounge music and that post-surf guitar twang thing. They seem to appeal to folks with more normal, less adventurous tastes. I find them immensely charming and not so limiting as some think. Live, they are even better at making this music more magical, creating another more enchanting world. Here Zorn conducts, pushing them into less obvious areas. Zorn prods Ribot on guitar, Jamie on piano & organ, Cyro on percussion and Joey on drums to take amazing solos which then pushes the intensity into the red zone. Although the Dreamers are somewhat tame on record, they are not at all tame live. They haven't played live in a while so it was great to hear them again on the big stage. The band mutates into Electric Masada when Ikue Mori joins them, Kenny switches to drums and Zorn pulls out his sax. This version of Electric Masada are one of the finest, hottest electric jazz/rock bands in existence and again, they haven't played for quite some time. Zorn also conducts and pushes them hard, knowing when to get both drummers to play together or do some incredible back & forth action. Electric Masada have a large, imposing sound which Zorn molds with his hand signals. Zorn himself takes a couple of amazing sax solos which only added fuel to the fire. Everyone in the band gets a chance to stretch and solo, with Mr. Zorn pushing them even further as the set progressed. In many ways, this is the perfect set to end the festival in the big room of the colosseum. But still, it is not the end of the fest or Zorn day. There was one more set left at a near-by church.
Over the past couple of years, Mr. Zorn has performed a handful of solo organ sets at different churches or auditoriums in NY, Philly and in Europe. Organ was Zorn's first instrument which he played before taking up the sax. For the first time that week, it was raining in Victo but this didn't dampen our spirits. As a Jew, I often feel a bit out of place in a church but wanted to give this set a chance nonetheless. I did catch Zorn play a large organ at Columbia University last year and thought it was interesting but not much more so I didn't have big expectations. The organ at the church in Victoriaville was upstairs and in the back of the room from where the congregation sits. At almost exactly midnight, Zorn started to play. I couldn't seem him from where I was sitting but still listened closely. It seems as if Zorn was getting better at knowing how to use the organ in compelling ways. His playing slowly built, adding a layer or two at a time, creating a hypnotic, ghostlike spirit. The music had a number of suspense filled moments which got better as it flowed out. Sitting in a church pew on a hard bench was not very comfortable but the music was something else and transcended whatever apprehension I had when I sat down. It was a fitting way to end the long Day of Zorn at 60, a worthy experience that will take a while to fully absorb.
- Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG, 6/6/13
Libellés : Compte-rendu