Ahead of The Stone’s Move, Zorn Is Busy as Ever

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Dave Douglas (left) performs with John Zorn. The pair recently collaborated during an improv session at the Stone, Zorn’s East Village arts venue set to move across town next year.

(Photo: Courtesy greenleaf.com)

It was just a few months ago that John Zorn announced that The Stone, his understated avant-garde venue in Manhattan’s Alphabet City, would be moving locations from its current to The New School, a New York City institution that champions the arts. The move across town isn’t until March 2018, but Zorn’s already begun to experiment with his Stone residency-holders in other environments. 

On the last Wednesday of every month, Zorn curates a performance at National Sawdust, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, another space that embraces experimental arts and provides a phenomenal platform for artists to display their craft. That series has already hosted pianist Matt Mitchell, drums Tyshawn Sorey and Ches Smith and Zorn himself (Julian Lage, Okkyung Lee, Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis and more are set to round out the rest of the year’s schedule). This last Wednesday (May 31) composer-electronicist Ikue Mori was joined by pianist Craig Taborn and percussionist Jim Black for a series of collaborative pieces that explore the connection between computer-engineered sound design (think movie sound effects or Warp Records weirdness a la Aphex Twin or Arca) with piano and drums.

On the last Thursday of every month, The Stone is taking over the iconic Jewish delicatessen Russ and Daughters, where curious listeners are urged to “drop by for smoked fish” along with enjoying music. Zorn recently continued to embrace his Jewish heritage with a program at The Jewish Museum that included a handful of his acclaimed bagatelles pieces with various artists performing, including a thrashing set from Zorn and Smith. He’s also been popping up at the Village Vanguard for improv matinee shows, and recently played with bassist Christian McBride, Sorey and saxophonist Steve Coleman. In September of this year, Zorn will also ignite a series at The Drawing Center, one of Manhattan’s smaller art institutions. Of course, this is all in anticipation of the big move to the Glass Box Theater at the New School.

Visibility could be the main benefit of the move. Not only is the New School location invaluably located, as Zorn said, in the heart of the Village, but the Glass Box Theater is one that you can actually see through as you’re walking down the street. (That’s to say that a fan of Wilco could see Nels Cline playing duo with Lage, who catches the eye of a bluegrass fan that saw him play alongside the Punch Brothers.) The move will secure growth of avant-garde appreciation and exploration over the long term, something that the current location can’t necessarily foster due to location.

On top of the nights at National Sawdust, Russ and Daughters and elsewhere, Zorn is also already starting to break in his new home at The New School. He recently held two of his famed improvisational sessions, nights that are usually hosted at The Stone to benefit the non-profit venue. Musicians included Zorn, Mori, Wadada Leo Smith, Taborn, Sylvie Courvoisier, Kenny Wollesen, Dave Douglas, Uri Caine, Smith, Chris Tordini and more, all of whom were there to raise money for the current space, and presumably the move itself. Of course, the crew created a deafening amount of noise while doing it. 

All of these forays are in effort to increase the visibility of Zorn’s art and the art of his peers. The saxophonist is doing everything he can to give artists a chance to showcase their skillset to others—whether a couple having whitefish salad at Russ and Daughters or a young art student at the New School. Finally, it seems like New York City won’t have to fight so hard to seek this stuff out, and in fact, it may just come to you. DB




On Sale Now
April 2020
Gregory Porter
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