Performer Spotlight: John Zorn (a guide to Zorn@60 in NYC)

(NOTE: I updated the Sept 28 Metropolitan Museum concert section after they posted the full schedule on 8/30.)

I don’t really have any big concerts for a couple of weeks (and the last few concerts I went to ended up unblogged due to a variety of factors like illness and a painful dental emergency) so I decided I would write up a little overview of one of my favorite performers/composers, John Zorn, and the line-up of concerts he’s got going on in the next month or two.

Zorn is in the middle of an incredibly prolific part of his career – he’s released five albums this year, and I think there were eleven last year. It can be hard to keep up, and even harder to know where to jump in if you’re just starting out. (I usually tell people to start with the Bar Kokhba triple-CD live set – absolutely great music, and very easy to get into.) As far as genres go, he does anything from twinkly Christmas music to stuff that will scare the neighbor’s dog if you play it too loud. (I’m also told that Anulikwutsayl freaks out my friend’s cat. But what do cats know, anyway?) Anyway, he covers a lot of territory: classical, jazz, rock, world(ish), improv, avant garde, noise – there’s hardly anything he hasn’t at least briefly touched upon.

As part of his 60th birthday celebrations, he’s arranged a wonderful array of marathon concerts around the world – I believe he’s hit 14 countries plus a couple of cities in the U.S. so far this year, with a couple more European dates still to come. I’ve managed to see a couple of different marathons in 2013 already, and I’m very excited about all of the upcoming shows in New York – during the next month or so he’s got a truly spectacular series of concerts lined up in his hometown. I understand that not everyone aspires to my level of concert mania, so I thought I’d go over the list of upcoming NYC shows and make some recommendations for the more casual fan or the curious listener who wants to try live Zorn for the first time.

  • August 29: John Zorn & Fred Frith at the Stone. As far as I know, this will be a fully improvised set. Frith mainly plays guitar and has been in many bands, including Henry Cow, Naked City, and Cosa Brava. This show is recommended for the more hardcore fans and those who have a particular love of improv. Probably not a great introduction to Zorn’s work, if you’re looking for that.
  • Sept 2: John Zorn improv birthday party at the Stone, with guests including (more…)

What’s happening this summer?

My July schedule is a bit strange, I’ve basically got 10 days with almost nothing to do (music-wise) and then there is a huge flood of good stuff happening. I thought since I’ll have no concert reviews for a week I would share a few things that are coming up and maybe help you find something fun to see.

First, I’ll mention that one of my favorite new bands, Zion80, is doing a live streaming webcast from Poland tomorrow, July 4th. 4PM Eastern (1PM Pacific/10PM Europe). According to their Twitter feed, this is the link where you’ll find it: http://t.co/pu9Vm7AUK3 Of course, if you’re in Krakow, you can probably go see them in person (click here for a complete list of tour dates). Some music, if you don’t know them:

Another notable European happening is that one of my very favorite songwriters, Joe Henry, has just announced a couple of shows in August in Dublin and Willisau. He also has one show in July in Los Angeles. He doesn’t tour very often so these shows are pretty special (I read that it’s the first concert he’s ever done in Ireland). I’m not sure if he’s planning on doing any more shows while he’s in Europe, but you can keep an eye on his schedule here. Some music, if you’re not familiar with him:

One of my very favorite musical people in the world, composer/saxophonist John Zorn, is heading off to Europe in July as well; he’s doing a number of marathon concerts (mainly at jazz festivals) in London, Rotterdam, Gent, Warsaw, San Sebastian and Lisbon. Lisbon gets three nights instead of just one, so the Portuguese are extra lucky this time around! In August and September he’ll be heading to Jerusalem and Paris, and throughout the year he is doing fantastic events in New York City. His Facebook events page remains the best place to keep up with events; the Zorn@60 page is really good, but it is a little behind the curve and missing some events that are listed on Facebook. Here is a live cut of the Dreamers, who I think are playing in all of the European concerts:

Local Cantabrigian (more…)

Performer spotlight: Amanda F. Palmer

So: I find myself once again without any concerts to review for a couple of weeks, and therefore I’m writing about someone I’m hoping to see next week instead of a band I’ve already seen. Amanda Palmer! She is playing a tiny show right in my neighborhood and I’m hoping to win tickets (wish me luck!). It’s such a small venue that they are not selling tickets, but giving them away to a few lucky people.

The cool part, and the reason I’m writing about it in advance, is that it’s going to be streamed live on the internet, and we can all see the show whether or not we get tickets. Save the date: June 4, 7PM EST, at Red Star Union. There will also be a number of guest artists doing music and readings, including her husband Neil Gaiman, who happens to be one of my favorite authors ever since I stumbled across a copy of Good Omens back in the 90s. I think it’s going to be a really fun night.

afpjune4

If you’re a fan of AFP, you’re already writing this on your calendar. If you aren’t familiar with her music, read on! (I realize there’s a third option, but I guess they’ve already stopped reading.)

The first time I saw AFP was about three years ago, after a friend of mine (hi Lisa!) told me I should check out the Evelyn Evelyn concert at a local venue I really like. It wasn’t expensive, so I figured I would give it a shot in spite of knowing nothing about it aside from reading a brief blurb on the website (which didn’t give anything away). I may be the only person in the entire world that (more…)

Upcoming concerts and tours of note

I’d meant to see a concert or two over the long weekend, but was unfortunately sidelined by the flu – so instead you’re getting a look at some upcoming concerts and tours that I think are worth checking out.

National/International:
Bettye Lavette – one of my favorite voices on the planet and a consummate performer, Bettye has a few dates scheduled in Australia (Byron Bay, Sydney, Melbourne), Cape Verde, and the U.S. (Pittsburgh, NYC, DC, Chicago). If you haven’t heard her before, click here to listen to one of the performances that made her famous.

Marc Ribot – probably my favorite musician on the planet in terms of live performance. He has lots of great shows coming up: a concert with David Hidalgo in Burlington, VT on Jan 26th; a Ceramic Dog concert in Brooklyn on the 29th; and in February and March he’ll be all over Europe with both solo sets and a Ceramic Dog tour. Here’s a clip of him playing one of his own compositions with Chad Taylor and Henry Grimes:



The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is touring all over the U.S. from February until May – including a visit to Brooklyn Bowl where I had such a good time seeing them last summer. If you get a chance to see them at a standing and dancing kind of venue, don’t miss it! I’m honestly not sure about other kinds of venues – I saw them at Boston Symphony Hall and it was kind of underwhelming, but I think it was in large part due to some sound problems they were having that night.

The Underscore Orkestra – who I’m recommending simply because I saw them one time and it was so much fun – are currently doing an Australia/New Zealand tour, and will be doing a U.S. tour in March. Listen to some of their music here. I remember their live performance as being much more exciting than the studio tracks would indicate, though.

Sean Rowe, a deep-voiced singer-songwriter who impressed me when I saw him perform an opening set a few months ago, is currently touring the UK; he’ll be doing a sixteen-date U.S. tour from west coast to east coast in March. Here’s a video from his latest album:



John Zorn, my favorite composer (a word that doesn’t do him justice), is putting together a very special series of concerts in 2013 in a number of countries in (more…)