Music Reviews

Artist: Christoph Funabashi
Title: John Zorn\\\'s The Book of Heads
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: schraum
Distributor: schraum
Rated: *****
This disc is a wonderfully schizophrenic music box, a swinging lullaby promptly followed by fuzzed out analog pedals and wah pedal effects, and later followed up by tuning sounds and riffing one might overhear in any given guitar shop. The Book of Heads is classic Zorn musical virtuosity, humor, and sonic exploration, expertly performed here by the virtuosic guitarist Christoph Funabashi.

The album consists of 35 etudes that range in duration from 21 seconds to just over 4 minutes. During the 55 minute journey of the album, one can hear a seemingly 360 degree perspective of what the guitar is capable in terms of timbre and extended techniques. Calling upon objects such as styrofoam, music boxes, and violin bows as well as the voice to resonate with or on the guitar, The Book of Heads demands an acrobatic set of skills and creativity to perform. Funabashi is well equipped for the challenge.

Utilizing multiple instruments and extended playing techniques, Funabashi's playing demonstrates Zorn's trademarked sound which showcases at one moment blues, metal, and classical sounds - even exploring the landscape of the instrument itself with multi-finger tapping across the surface of the instrument and playing of the strings behind the nut and bridge. Seems there's not one centimeter of the guitar that wasn't used for musical vibration here, and when teamed with Christoph's razor sharp musical execution we get a very clear interpretation of this genre-resistant work from 1977 (!). Like much of Zorn's work, you simply must hear it to understand this music - words are no where near capable of doing it justice.

Despite all the fireworks and string gymnastics (which are of course an impressive feat in their own right) I have to mention that I enjoyed this recording from a holistically musical standpoint as well. Tempted as one could be to write this off as perfunctory or at other times pedantic, the true musicianship and creativity of Funabashi shines in each work as he treats each Etude with ease and prowess. One fun aspect of listening to this is trying to determine exactly how the performer executed it live. It's a feat to have produced this album, let alone the recording or the performance itself. Kudos to schraum for taking this artistic leap on what most labels would consider perhaps too esoteric.

Amazing in execution as well as composition, Funabashi's version of The Book of Heads demonstrates some of Zorn's earliest experiments and allusions to what would later become one of his long standing sonic trademarks. Etude #33 alone could be transcribed for the next Naked City album. This being only the second published version of the suite following Ribot's 1995 release on Tzadik, Funabashi lays down a finely crafted and creatively virtuosic interpretation of one of Zorn's most demanding works. Recommended.

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