Music Reviews

Artist: John Zorn
Title: In Search of the Miraculous
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Distributor: Tzadik, Amazon, iTunes
Rated: *****
First off, I'm going to avoid the good/bad or thumbs up/down review format here. After spinning even the first few minutes of this disc, I immediately sense the departed sound that Zorn is working towards. This is not Naked City or yet another sax freakout. But by way of hypnotic rhythms, dramatic and sublime harmonies and lovely jazz textures, Zorn pulls a beautiful white dove out of a hat here. Or maybe it's a blue flamingo.

'In Search of the Miraculous' falls somewhere inside the realm of jazz and minimalist contemporary classical music. Performed by the Alhambra Trio with special guests Kenny Wolleen on vibes and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass, Zorn takes credit for composing, arranging, and conducting. The tunes are memorable and nigh catchy at times, not unlike a Vince Guaraldi tune, but with Reich inspired rhythms (!). Hymn for a New Millenium sounds optimistic and the melodies in Postlude: Prayers and Enchantment are almost hummable. Zorn, hummable? Why not?

One thing is for certain about Zorn and I think this is relevant to understanding this release. Zorn is an artist who can't be easily pegged because (as it would seem) even he doesn't know what his next few moves will be. Its like he wants to undermine even himself. So, to bring your Zorn-brand luggage to this musical occasion may not actually be beneficial as approaching it without any expectations.

And with such unpredictability, even Zorn's biggest fans have albums they deplore. While this may seem like an artistic shortcoming to some folks, i see this as a sign of artistic awareness - perhaps moreso on the part of the composer than with the listeners. After so many years on the downtown music circuit, he's done it all. So it's great to see an artist who continues to break his own mold time and again. That said, this is one album to just throw on, kick back and enjoy the musicianship.

I hear it often that Zorn is becoming more listener friendly, perhaps appealing to a larger crowd, albeit unintentionally. I can imagine folks - the diehard Zorn heads - are not going to find this one up their alley. Especially considering that at the end of the day and away from the program notes here, the music on 'In Search of the Miraculous' is far from mysterious as the label tagline states. But that said, it's as bright and promising as the horizon Zorn is dawning for new music as a whole. Recommended to the more daring and openminded Zorn listeners out there as well as any newcomers who are interested in joining the party.

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