Inspired in part by the Goldberg Variations and Schoenberg’s solo piano music, this is a piano bass and drums trio comprising of Brian Marsella (piano), Ches Smith (drums) and Jorge Roeder (Bass). It was composed by New York legend John Zorn, which means pretty much anything is possible.
All of the titles reference music ancient traditions, styles or approaches, from 17th century baroque music styles, to 16th century Central American dances, to 17th century French court dances, to 17th century Spanish musical forms. Yet it’s hardly reverential, as you can hear plenty of Zornisms sprinkled throughout, as well as the trio’s own improvisational chops. This is some pretty dynamic jazz, with driving bass, energetic percussion and melodic tinkering piano. Pieces often build and explode in an unrestrained cartoonish frenzy of notes before developing into more of a repetitive groove. There’s some truly beautiful, magical and surprisingly conventional atmospheric jazz on here. Yet it’s often bookended by chaos. It’s always seemed at these moments that Zorn is just demonstrating that he can do normal, he just chooses not to.
It’s very much a Zorn affair. It retains that kind of punkish uncompromising downtown vibe, particularly in terms of the energy and dexterous cascading notes of the trio. Typical of Zorn’s best work there’s a lot going on, it confounds as much as it engages, but in the end its impossible not to be won over by its sheer uniqueness, expert musicianship and strength of vision