August 12th, 2019


John Zorn - The Tower

The Hierophant (2019) is yet another John Zorn album on which Zorn doesn't actually play. As an old time fan who enjoyed Zorn's abrasive alto rasp I'll confess this again comes as a disappointment, but even I'll admit that there's an excuse for leaving out the sax when you're making a classic jazz trio album.

And there's certainly a fair amount of jazz tradition on display here. The album's closer, The Lovers, is full of romance and drama; if there were such things as jazz standards these days it could very easily turn into one. But much of the album is of rather more austere fare. Brian Marsella's piano is clean and precise, frequently eschewing harmony entirely for long streams of solo notes high on the right hand with little or no sustain. Such is the case with the frankly astonishing The Tower (yes, all the tracks are named after Tarot major arcana, unsurprising considering Zorn's interest in occult practice and Jewish mysticism). It's ferociously fast and complex, an unrelenting torrent of sound that is both invigorating and deliciously sinister. Exhilarating stuff, and wait till you hear the payoff.

John Zorn - The Tower