John Zorn, Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman
John Zorn dismantles the catalog of free jazz architect Ornette Coleman on 1988’s Spy Vs. Spy, a tribute that doubles as a punk-as-fuck exercise in killing your idols
Mutant jazz snot-rocketer John Zorn thoroughly dismantles the catalog of free jazz architect Ornette Coleman on 1988′s Spy Vs. Spy, a loving tribute that doubles as a punk-as-fuck exercise in killing your idols. Recorded at the cusp of his obsession with hardcore and extreme metal (he would unleash comically abrasive grind-jazzers Naked City the following year), Zorn reduces Ornette’s sprawling symphonies and spiraling suites into two-minute blasts of acidic skronk — needless to say, very few jazz records of the time had “Fucking hardcore rules” written in the liner notes.
The blues lilt in Ornette’s turn-of-the-’60s Atlantic pieces like “Chronology,” “Blues Connection” or “Enfant” are reduced to breathless, high-velocity tantrums, with spasmodic drummer Joey Baron machine-gunning out beefy hardcore blasts that would feel right at home on an album by D.R.I. or the Accüsed (both bands are dutifully thanked). With coked-up abandon, the two dueling altos — Zorn in the right channel, Tim Berne in the left — heroically nail hyper-speed versions of iconic Ornette melodies (yes, even the prickly staccato bits of Ornette!‘s “W.R.U.”), but when the two solo simultaneously, it rapidly turns into dizzying splatter art, an impenetrable pile-ups, a flurry of soulful noise and terrifying squeals — basically, a clusterfuck in the best way humanly possible.