Tzadik

This album, recorded as part of John Zorn’s 50th birthday celebrations at Tonic in September 2003, finds him in stellar form, his alto sax emitting cries of indignation, a surgical emancipation from trickery, a freedom apparently inspired by his sense of supremacy in territorial battles against soiled lyricism. Zorn and guitarist Frith know each other’s moves by heart, but you can’t help being captivated by their deranged conversations, as Fred morphs his instrument into a multi-faceted timbral dialect that to this day has no equal. Frith predated a lot of what has become standard practice in today’s guitar world – alternate tunings, dissonant strumming, masterly use of the volume pedal and percussive treatment of the body of the instrument were practically unheard of thirty years ago – yet he still brings everything to the table with the same good-natured innocence of a kid picking his nose looking into the window of a toy shop. It’s as if the quasi-silences and the rumbling contingencies of 1995′s The Art of Memory (Incus) were advance warning of the storm that this latest duo represents; while the improvisations on the earlier album seemed to be looking for the smallest conduit to squeeze through, the energy level goes up a few notches here, as Zorn and Frith hammer on our sense of aural fitness, shake us by the shoulders, and force us to reassess who and what we too easily call great. Be in no doubt though – this one will last.

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