It’s a new year, and that means that Scott and I are continuing our quest of finding the weirdest, coolest, most out-there music on the planet (and possibly beyond if we can raise enough money on our non-existent Kickstarter). And today, we have what was actually my third favorite album of 2016: John Zorn’s Classic Guide to Strategy, Vol. 4.
To describe John Zorn in just a few words is a difficult thing for me to do. I personally think he’s one of the most unique, inventive, and important composers/artists of the modern era. Whether it’s the grindcore insanity of Naked City, the mystical free jazz/klezmer project Masada, or the innumerable other projects (spanning many, many genres) under his own name, Zorn’s proven himself to be not only prolific, but eclectic as well. The Classic Guide to Strategy series in particular documents Zorn’s solo saxophone (and various woodwind instrument) improvisations, from the 1980s to the present day. This fourth volume is the supposed penultimate volume of the series, and (I believe) consists solely of alto improvisations.
This album, however, comes with a caveat that’s oft-repeated on this podcast: to remain open when listening. This is an incredibly difficult release (though not as challenging as the first two Classic Guide to Strategy volumes, in my opinion); free improvisation can already be difficult, but to eliminate all but a single instrument from a recording exponentially increases its difficulty, since your attention now only has one place to really go.
One other note: Zorn’s label—Tzadik Records—isn’t particularly Internet-friendly; as a result, we are unable to provide a link to this album. However, the video below this week’s podcast episode features Zorn improvising on sax with similar techniques he uses in Vol. 4. If you wish to buy this album, you can do so here and here.
Also, interesting note: we actually go over our 30-minute runtime here! Sorry for the extra one minute and thirty-three seconds, I guess.