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For the Record: June 26, 2020

Keeping tabs on new recordings of interest to the new-music community, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital-only formats—including the Album of the Week from John Zorn's prog-metal jazz trio.
For the Record: June 26, 2020

For the Record is a weekly round-up of new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary  classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and  idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP,  cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.

This list of release  dates is culled from press releases, Amazon, Bandcamp, and other  internet stores and sources, social-media posts, and online resources  such as Discogs.  Dates cited  correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings, for the most part,  and are subject to change. (Links to Amazon, where used, do not imply  endorsement.)

After publication, these new listings will be incorporated into On the Record: The Master List, a continuously compiled and updated resource exclusively accessible to paid Night After Night subscribers, found here.

These  listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a  forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to nightafternight@icloud.com.

Recording of the Week

Similacrum (L-R: John Medeski, Kenny Grohowski, Matt Hollenberg)
Photograph: Petra Cvelbar/Gulbenkian Música

John Zorn

Long after reaching a point in his career where many artists could be expected to slow down, the mercurial composer and improviser John Zorn continues to release excellent new albums at a pace that makes it hard even for devotees to keep up. Look at 2020 alone, a year that has provided all manner of near-insurmountable roadblocks. The year started with the January release of Beyond Good and Evil, a live set from Simulacrum, a beyond prodigious jazz-metal trio comprising organist John Medeski, guitarist Matt Hollenberg, and drummer Kenny Grohowski.

In February, Zorn issued Virtue, a sublime guitar-trio session featuring Bill Frisell, Julian Lage, and Gyan Riley. March and April were quiet on the Zorn front, understandably, but May brought Calculus, a crackling jazz piano-trio session featuring Brian Marsella, Trevor Dunn, and Kenny Wollesen. And the pace isn’t about to let up: Les Maudits, a flamboyant collection of chamber works featuring Simon Hanes and the International Contemporary Ensemble, arrives in July, with Songs for Petra, an album of sweet pop songs co-written by Zorn and Jesse Harris for singer Petra Haden, following in August.

Impossible as that pace might seem, what’s really most impressive is the continued originality of Zorn’s singular vision, matched with the impossible virtuosity of his collaborators. For instant evidence, look no further than the album that arrived today: Baphomet, the second Simulacrum set to drop in 2020. Recorded and mixed in just two days this February, the album offers a single 39-minute composition that could easily be the apotheosis of the jazz-metal-hardcore-prog-modern-classical hybrid style Zorn pioneered 30 years ago – when, as Hank Shteamer documented this week in an epic article for Rolling Stone, Zorn dropped Naked City on an unsuspecting public – and has been working to refine ever since.

“One epic 40-minute long-form composition touching upon all of Zorn’s musical obsessions from classical atonality, minimalism, jazz, metal, punk, funk, improvisation, exotica and more,” proclaims the album’s obi strip, accurately. The frantic burst of tumbling drums, twangy guitar squall, and discordant organ clusters that open Baphomet, culminating in a choked cymbal, come straight out of the Naked City playbook. The music shifts into a ride-cymbal driven sprint, then swerve just as quickly into odd-meter thrash guitar and organ-pedal bass; the organ plays off-color chords, then scrambles over the sudden return of the driving cymbal. That’s all in the first 30 seconds, which might have comprised an entire song on 1990’s Torture Garden.

Here, though, the players – all of whom were interviewed by Phil Freeman for an excellent 2015 Burning Ambulance profile of the then-new combo – sustain the intensity and variety Zorn requires for a ceaseless 39 minutes. The music is episodic and referential, sometimes overtly so; the mood, meditative, whimsical, caustic, and hilarious by turns. Medeski proves his range and versatility in ways his work elsewhere rarely demands. And Hollenberg and Grohowski show an almost supernatural ease in their assignments, demonstrating a point asserted in Shteamer’s article: these bold young players grew up in a world literally remade by Zorn’s audacious vision.

New This Week

Mahan Esfahani
Photograph: Kaja Smith

Chris Dingman - Peace (Inner Arts Initiative)

Mahan Esfahani - Musique? - compositions by Tōru Takemitsu, Henry Cowell, Kaija Saariaho, Gavin Bryars, Anahita Abbasi, and Luc Ferrari (Hyperion)

Quin Kirchner - The Shadow and the Light (Astral Spirits)

Eunmi Ko - Unus Mundus: Tributes to Isang Yun   - compositions by Ingrid Stölzel, John Liberatore, Eduardo Costa   Roldán, Seunghee Lee, Alejandro Román, Girolamo Deraco, Christos   Samaras, and Fabio Massimo Capogrosso (Innova)

David Lang - prisoner of the state - Julie Mathevet, Alan Oke, Jarrett Ott, Eric Owens, New York Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden (Decca Gold)

Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris - EarthSeed (FPE Records)

PC Nackt - Plunderphonia (7k!)

Carlos Niño & Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - Chicago Waves (International Anthem)

Huang Ruo - Into the Vast World - Guang Yang, Huang Ruo, Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra/Liang Zhang (Innova)

Halldór Smárason - Stara: The Music of Halldór Smárason - Siggi String Quartet & Friends (Sono Luminus)

Carl Stone - Ganci & Figli (Unseen Worlds)

John Zorn - Baphomet (Tzadik)

Coming Soon

Anteloper (L-R: jaimie branch, Jason Nazary )
Photograph: Zachariah Kobrinsky

July 3

Anteloper - Tour Beats, Vol. 1 (International Anthem)

Spike Orchestra - Splintered Stories (Tzadik)

July 24

Philip Corner with Carles Santos - Chord/Gong! (Unseen Worlds)

John Zorn - Les Maudits - performances by John Zorn, Simon Hanes, Ikue Mori, Ches Smith, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (Tzadik)

August TBD

John Zorn/Jesse Harris - Songs for Petra (Tzadik)

August 7

Beth Anderson - Namely (Other Minds)

August 14

Huihui Cheng - Huihui Cheng - performances by Youmi Kim, Silke Evers, Noa Frenkel, Ensemble Experimental, SWR Experimentalstudio, Detlef Heusinger, Claudia Chan, Ensemble Ubu, Ensemble Mosaik, and Neue Vocalsolisten (Wergo)