Fred Frith / John Zorn

Art of Memory II

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AllMusic Review by

What makes guitarist Fred Frith and saxophonist/bird caller John Zorn such a great improv team is that their musical personalities are so different. No matter how hellaciously abrasive the noises he makes, Frith always sounds like a happy guy having fun. No matter how mellifluous the noises he makes (and they are rarely very mellifluous at all), Zorn always sounds like an angry guy who's out for revenge. Both of them also have a sense of humor, which is a good thing when your musical modus operandi involves hitting your guitar with stuff and doing unnatural things with birdcalls. The five tracks on this album were originally recorded in two live venues in 1983 and 1985, just at the beginning of the end of what had been, for about ten years, an unbelievably fertile avant-garde music scene in downtown Manhattan. No one (except maybe Bill Laswell) did more to bring color and vibrancy to that scene than Frith and Zorn, and this recording helps illustrate how they did it: Frith's tonal palette is unbelievably varied, his techniques as utterly unorthodox as they are kaleidoscopically fascinating. Zorn's approach to winds is all about timbre and color; pitch is secondary at best. Sometimes they seem to be responding to each other's ideas, other times they're engaged in parallel but unrelated play like two toddlers side by side in a sandbox. Amazingly, there's hardly an uninteresting sound anywhere on this album. Highly recommended to all skronk fans.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
17:36
2
4:42
3
8:46
4
5:43
5
20:20
blue highlight denotes track pick