Album Review: John Zorn – O’o

September 8, 2009

For the birds.

Concept: Jazz marathon man John Zorn presents the fifth installment in his ‘Dreamers’ collaboration, with odes to birds surrounding the extinct titular Hawaiian species.

Sound: Zorn has literally released hundreds of albums, most of which concentrate on free jazz and range from unlistenable blathering to riveting facsimiles of torture and suffering. Very little of his work takes the time to focus on more familiar and accessible material like this, and it is even more uncommon for it to hold to such an upbeat perspective. For a composer given hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to further his craft, this album can seem simple, offhand, or even inconsiderate, but it’s far from a disservice. Every member of the band is a solid independent voice, expressing extended melodic themes that beat again and again until each bird reaches flight, with healthy disregard for the barriers between music’s forms. Samba, blues, jazz, rock, and soul cooperate fully, and the album can be interpreted as a clean and colorful whole.

Lyrics: None

Quick And Dirty: It’s in the largest of contrasts to Zorn’s typical work. This reprieve from his demented namesakes shows his versatility and his capacity for conventional excellence. (♦♦♦½)

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