John Zorn

The Painted Bird

I recently received a stack of new releases from John Zorn’s Tzadik label and diligently started listening. But, frankly, I haven’t gotten past the first disc because it’s so damned good. I keep going back to The Painted Bird over and over. It’s a rip-roaring, tribal jazz/metal shred fest that will get the blood flowing and the head boppin’. I know I’m late to this party. The album came out in March and critic Bill Milkowski already gave it 4½ stars in DownBeat, but the loud-loving boy in me couldn’t resist adding it to this month’s Editors’ Picks. Let’s start with the lineup: John Medeski on organ, Ches Smith on congas and voudun drums, Kenny Wollesen on vibes, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar. This is the fourth album of Zorn music this group has delivered in a 12-month period, and there’s more to come. This is rapid-fire, in-your-face, beautifully aggressive music that features crazy-good improvisation. Wollesen just melts down the vibes on “Snakeskin.” The whole band squeals and wails on “Comet,” a stop-start romp of tremendous ingenuity and musical interplay. “Night” is a majestic beast of a tune. And ’Missal” simmers down the proceedings to a low boil heading out of the set. The tunes are fantastic. The musicianship is beyond compare. This unit is tight, engaged and outrageous. You can feel them smiling behind this shimmering wall of sound. The Painted Bird is a fantastic listening experience.

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