John Zorn - Spy vs Spy: Music of Ornette Coleman - Review
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critics' view

New York jazz rebel and advanced record collector Zorn has based several "concept" pieces around his key inspirational sources. Here, he's looking at Ornette Coleman's prime 1960s tune-capsules, imploding them even further, accelerating up to thrash-metal speed, but keeping their careening intricacy intact. This has the effect of re-creating the furore of the time, re-translating the numbers into an updated cacophony, capturing the outrage felt before the originals were finally digested. Zorn's siren-squalling alto saxophone is doubled by Tim Berne, derailing any expectations of Don Cherry trumpet-cloning. They also depart further from Ornette's classic quartet format with the addition of a second drummer. Joey Baron and Michael Vatcher take advantage of the echoey acoustic, crashing out artillery bursts from both sides, the curt themes often going through their whole head-banging barrage in barely over a minute. Zorn also includes four numbers from the 1980s, still very fresh when this album first came out. The 1987 "Feet Music" could almost have been its hit single, working around a straight dance-crash rhythm. An excellent disc to lure in the rock fan, Spy vs. Spy delivers gut tension and cerebral satisfaction in equal measures, swiftly capped by serial orgasmic release.

Martin Longley
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