Running the Voodoo Down


The Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet
Black Saint : 1986

John Zorn, alto sax; Wayne Horvitz, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Bobby Previte, drums.

Many thanks to everyone who took part in our two contests last week. We were impressed at the number of correct guesses for our blindfold test — and we were even impressed by the wrong guesses.  The song was “Minor Meeting” from the album above. Congratulations to…

Joshua Weinstein of St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Joshua’s first record: Neil Diamond, The Jazz Singer
(We asked the winners to name their first record ever bought or owned. Just cuz. Oddly, The Jazz Singer was Drew’s first record, too.)

As for our contest of pure chance, the winning number was 39. The winner picked the number right on the nose. Clairvoyant, practically. Congratulations to…

Jem Michelitch of Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Jem’s first record: Jan & Dean, Dead Man’s Curve
(As it happens, Jem also correctly identified the mystery track.)

Both of our lucky winners will receive CD copies of Dave Burrell’s Momentum and Sonic Liberation Front’s Change Over Time - courtesy of the fine folks at High Two. Given the success of this first go, we hope to re-run a similar contest in a month or so.

& & & & &

Now that the collective blindfold has been removed, here are two more tracks from Voodoo -

Though primarily Horvitz’s date, Zorn ends up the dominant voice. Like News for Lulu, this album was another early indication that there was more to Zorn than mere noise terrorism par excellence. A somewhat left-field part of his catalog, it’s not a pandering exercise or an attempt to prove to naysayers that he can play it straight. It’s much more a heartfelt love letter to a musician that adventurous jazz fans may be likely to dismiss — if he is considered at all.

The title track is a slinky, Mancini-like slice of blue quietude. If not quite enough to animate the dead, it does give everyone ample room to come alive. Horvitz’s opening statement reveals his easy sympathy with this material; Previte takes a few liberties, before Zorn slides in sideways and alternates boppish runs with screechy squeals. Though this kind of outside-in approach can feel like novelty, Zorn’s spastic breaks don’t seem at all like fuck-the-tradition nihilism; more an elbow poked in tradition’s ribs. Drummond keeps everyone honest.

“Cool Struttin'” is simply one of the great bop themes; the original features Clark with Paul Chambers, Jackie McLean, Art Farmer, and Philly Joe Jones. As befits such a wonderful song, Horvitz and company don’t try to do too much with it. Drummond and Previte are especially locked in, allowing Horvitz and Zorn the freedom to stray as out as they wanna go. Which, here, is not really that far.

In yet another example of the hive mind at work, Border Music is featuring the complete Voodoo album right now, as spotted by alert reader Hal Charles. Note that Voodoo is also available at iTunes.

Category contests, John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz

25 Responses to Running the Voodoo Down

  1. the zorn crowd helped to squeeze out the great musicians in NY. jazz for white college kids. blah.
    i remember him ruining a Derek Bailey show. screaming over Derek’s masterful playing.
    he’s the eddie van halen of jazz [NOT meant as a compliment].
    he’s gotten all the attention he ever needed. time to move on.
    the media darling…..sickening, when you consider all the real talent out there.
    yes i am resentful. disgusted.
    but i still like you guys, keep it up !!
    maybe you can antidote me with an Elton Dean feature. he just died, so i think it would be right. he only did 10 times + what zorn did. decades before him
    or maybe elliot sharp? a more deserving NY musician, as well, and more prolific.
    leave the famous ones like zorn and Miles to people magazine, or teen beat.

  2. No way I would have guessed this. Great stuff, though, as usual.

  3. heya- Haven’t given this a very close listen. Still *stunned* by my inability to instantly identify the contest track. I thought it was Oliver Lake! This is what I love about your site; I learn something just about every post.


  4. I’m still stunned that I got it right… clearly I listened to way too much John Zorn as a “white college kid.” (Hey, at least I wasn’t into Phish…)

  5. Well, I initially wrote “It sounds like Phil Woods to me,” then thought again, found the clip on Amazon, and wrote back maybe 3 minutes later with the rrect answer.

    This was actually a bit shocking to me, since, based on the 2 Zorn albums I own (Spilane and the 1st naked city), and various other stuff I’d heard, I’d decided that his alto playing basically sounded like shit, and I’d never expect to mistake him for a guy who was, at his peak, arguable the most virtuosic player in the history of the instrument. But, well, I heard what I heard: unusually good control of his tone, something like Phil’s throaty vibrato, and multiphonics that sound sort of like what Phil was into during his avant-ish late ’60s-early ’70s period.

    Plus, they both sound as white as milk.

  6. BTW, the 1st album I ever bought was a cassette of the Jackson 5’s greatest hits.

  7. I like Phil Woods in the Hall Overton Monk band at Town Hall. I never heard much of Woods’ avant-ish stuff. He was just selected as a NEA Jazz Master last year.


  8. “leave the famous ones like zorn and Miles to people magazine, or teen beat” – you’re undermining your own argument there, lee. zorn is shit just because he’s famous? and miles too?? while i’m at it, elliott sharp is hardly obscure or unsung, and he’s been involved in some pretty self-indulgent stuff himself (eg god is my co-pilot). you may think jz ruined a bailey performance, but he did more to support bailey than most, and this was certainly appreciated by db. if zorn is such an idiot, why do musicians love working with him? why would milford graves, a music therapist?

    imo lee’s comment shows precisely why this track was such a good choice, guys…

    i never did get round to buying this album, and i failed to identify the mystery track… something of an embarrassment to me since, unlike lee, i am a huge admirer of jz’s – and, unlike godoggo, i already knew that he was an excellent altoist and not just a one-trick pony. but i hadn’t heard him playing as far “in the tradition” as this, and i didn’t recognise him. sick as a parrot, as they say on this side of the pond.

    first album – best of bowie (16-track k-tel lp)

  9. First record… uh, folks, I cannot lie… I think it was the Olivia Newton-John/E.L.O. 45rpm single of “Xanadu”… yep. (Hey, at least Gene Kelly sang on the B side… which I didn’t ever listen to, of course…)

  10. When I listened to the blindfold test, the first thing that I had in mind was John Zorn… but I wasn’t sure at all. I then listened to the News For Lulu/More News For Lulu releases, where he, George Lewis and Bill Frisell paid tribute to hardbop masters like Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley or Freddie Redd. Redd’s “Shades of Redd” is ever since my favorite Hardbop album – I certainly wouldn’t have stumbled over it without Zorn’s tribute.

    And then I remembered the Horvitz project – listened to it, and there it was! (and on Monday, when the contest was over, I posted it…).

    I won’t blame Lee for his opinion, he blows in the same horn like many others. But I certainly agree with Centrifuge – Zorn may be a very clever guy who knows how make promotion for himself, but to see what he did for SO MANY others, who are OUT there (destination out!), is to see some other side of Zorn.

    I can’t count the musicians I only knew through Zorn, and mostly through Zorn’s record labels Avant (Japan) and Tzadik. So I’m very thankful for all he did – and I’m still a big fan of his cinematic compositions, which are the compositions that had the biggest impact on me: “Godard” and “Spillane”.

    Thanks folks @ Destination Out – I’m curious about ROUND 2.


  11. first record: Buddy Rich Big Band, Big Swing Face. Although the first record I actually bought with my own money was the Columbia twofer of Ornette Coleman’s Science Fiction/Skies of America.


  12. first record: 1968 ”windy” 45rpm by the Association.

    centrifuge: you seem to assume all kinds of stuff regarding my comments. you are welcome to make up what ever you like. clarification not required.

    Zorn and Miles do not merit any serious press or analysis. they have been examined and over-rated enough. there’s lot’s of better stuff out there. any argument of that point undermines your own schooling. and only a fool would think they are fully schooled. For those around to see lots of stuff in the 80’s in NYC, Zorn wasn’t really anything special. espec. if you knew anything about rivbea/aacm/fmp. He hired good sidemen.
    far too much artsy fartsy posturing. derivative.
    but, i guess he could sound groundbreaking to a mere pedestrian.

    Michael Marcus shoulda got a cool spiky haircut, and hung with the snotty art school know it all morons JZ used to pal around with. [i remember their empty snotty presences polluting the scene. ] .Maybe he woulda got some play.

    was a time you could see some furiously incredible music in a crowd of 10 or 20 folks. top notch stuff. but hey if ZORN came to town, oooooooh all the college kids would swoon. hilarious.
    i had trouble guessing who it was cuz it sounded quite uninspired, and that puzzled me. [like: ‘what the hell is this? early kenny g? ] . i thought you played an espec. lame track by someone great to throw us off. instead it was someone lame at his greatest. tricky.

    ok, you’re right steven funk- better than phish.

  13. i support tzadic, for what its worth, .
    i just dont support the over indulgent idolizing of the mediocre musician . thousands and thousands of jazz musicians out there. it’s easy to pick out the beginners: they talk about Miles and Zorn. i wish you all coulda heard the 1/2 hour rant Steve Turre went on about Miles and Zorn. he was loud and Mad!!. now you’re not gonna tell me Steve T. isn’t in a position to do that? he had the same arguments as me. not enuf attention paid to the TRUE greats. glory to the marketing experts. like David Lee Roth. dis -gus -ting.

  14. so…. zorn is shit because he’s shit. the famousness just adds resentment.

  15. Without wanting to extend a discussion that has pretty much reached its natural end point, I’d just like to point out a corollary to the notion that just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean folks aren’t out to get me: just because an artist is popular, it doesn’t mean he or she sucks. And the opposite is just as true. That’s all on that front. Perhaps it all goes without saying.

    As for the blindfold track, I think we initially thought it would be the “skill” contest, in contrast to the pure guess contest, but on reflection, there’s a lot a luck involved in any blindfold test. Primarily, it helps a whole hell of a lot to either own, or at least have heard, the selected cut. Blindfold tests have embarrassed or frustrated folks for decades; they’re just hard. So, y’know, come back for the next one…

  16. Lee, you are really on a rant, don’t you? But rather than rant against Zorn, why you not simply think positive and talk about artists you like? I already got it that you hate JZ… this negativity really makes me sick.

  17. I’m with Lucky on this one I dont see how tearing down a musician helps anyone, but lee I do appreciate some of the names youve thrown out that I was unfamiliar with, that approach just seems much more productive and more in line with what youre saying about some musicians not getting their “due”. I certainly recognize that there are vast amounts of unexplored musical territory for me to delve into, and any sort of blanket heirarchical ranking of what music is “better” then others in the end seems rather pointless except on a personal level. Though on a side note I always find the debates to be stimulating and educational.
    As for the blindfold, Id never heard the particular track but recognized Zorn’s tone and some of his signature “licks/screams” as well as the Clark composition and managed to track down the album. Thanks for these additional tracks from it, but in the end it simply made me dig out the original Cool Struttin album that has some very inspired soloing (especially on the originals), with Jackie Mac’s solo on Blue Minor being my first transcription! Keep it up and I look forward to the next contest!

  18. BTW, one reason I initially guessed Woods was of course because he’s known as a bopper, so some of his more adventurous stuff would have been a natural blindfold pick.

    Anyway, he was certainly a fine player by the time of that Monk album that Peter mentioned, but still more than a decade from developing the bionic chops that he’s famous for. He was getting there during the somewhat avant-garding period that I mentioned.

  19. i offer names more then i rant, if you’ve been to this forum often you’d see that. and i trumpet the merits of deserving artists, as much as i can, in the real world. i always recommend further exploration.
    and… by the way , the art of jazz is a deeply deeply competitive world. ”cutting sessions” i believe they call them. not ”back patting” sessions.

    and it is personal . if i pay to see Derek Bailey, and JZ just shreiks with no discernable technique, drowning out Derek, well then, JZ stole my money in a sense, and insulted my sensibilities. it was puzzling on many levels. many were angry. it is hard to figure why on earth anyone would do such a thing. it’s like smacking your own grandfather as he offers a gold watch to you. very weird. i’ll never forget it. what rudeness. he was -no joke- just shreiking. with Derek glancing up sporadically in a bafffled way. no interplay, no respect, just overblown crap. and thus that’s what he gets from me forever. sorry JZ ”fans” . get some Ayler. go to see Charles Gayle. forget the posers.
    i love destination out !!!!!!
    thanks guys !!

  20. Lee, I didn’t want to put you down – I’m sorry. Now that you explain it, I can understand it. Derek Bailey was one of the kindest persons on the whole scene – and being treated like you just told is very bad, of course.

    Nevertheless – Ayler, Gayle, Simmons and all the others are marks that noone will reach, no doubt. But there will be others, in different styles, and Zorn tried… OK, I stop – no argueing with me right now… WordPress just shut down my blog, so I’m a big thin-skinned…


  21. i wasn’t going to come back to this, but i’ve been sucked back in goddammit… lee, you say you’re not negative, but… zorn is not the enemy, why do you think you have to regard him as such? i guarantee you this doesn’t hurt him in the slightest, but it doesn’t sound as if it’s doing YOU much good…

    obviously i wasn’t at the bailey gig, but i did see zorn in london with bailey opening. my point is that they worked together many, many times so your recollection of poor old derek bailey being mortally insulted by jz is just misconstrued. clearly that was how YOU responded to it, and perhaps it’s true that some others in the audience did also; but bailey won’t have felt insulted. a friend of mine worked with derek a couple of years ago and he was very down to earth and easygoing, with a very dry sense of humour – not at all the type to bear a grudge. why are you bearing this one on his behalf?

    zorn is a poser, i won’t deny that! he loves to shock, and he loves attention. he is also a serious composer and musician; and furthermore he is doing more to keep improvised music alive than most of us… the stone in nyc is funded by him personally, and musicians get all the money from the door – how often does that happen? he is not the enemy! why not let it go…

  22. Lucky, so sorry about Border Music! What the hell happened?!

  23. i was at countless shows in the 80s in NY. saw lots of incredible black artists. in sparse crowds. one of the greatest ever was a R.Shannon Jackson and decoding society show at old knit. there were 4 people in the audience by the end. it was more complex and aggressive then anything i’ve ever seen, incl. the Last Exit shows. so when i hear JZ stuff, i do not hear direct honesty. and i hear mcdonalds when i’ve tasted steak.
    when JZ sells out a show and a more deserving artist starves, and cant pay his rent, well…. that is a bad thing. i guess i take an aggressive approach to this whole thing. but out of caring concern.
    it was really weird, the whole racist tone of knitting factory etc. crowds, back then at least. the Black Rock Coalition was really doing it up. [shock indeed]. but most of the time the only white people were me, my pal Tom, the German girl, and the dreadlocked white guy. in a crowd of 200, every week. go JZ, mahhhhn… you the best!… ha ha ha ha.

  24. btw, I haven’t changed my mind that most of jz’s playing sounds bad to me.

  25. And they called Zorn an angry man …