Fred Frith

50th Birthday, Vol. 5

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Fred Frith and John Zorn had been making music together for 25 years when Zorn's 50th birthday rolled around, so how could that pairing NOT be one of the features of the monthlong celebration at Tonic in September of 2003? They got together for a series of improvised duets on September 15, and the results are stellar. Working together over such a long period of time and in various contexts, both players are intimately familiar with one another. The degree to which they listen to each other, react instantly, and match each other tonally at a moment's notice is truly astonishing and borders on telepathy. Zorn pulls out all the stops: sputtering, bleating, squeaks, squeals, skronk, and multiphonics -- every trick in the book. Frith goes from sounding like chimes to sounding like buildings collapsing and everything in between. The interplay is simply amazing. Much of it is what you'd expect from free improv, but there are a handful of beautiful, lyrical moments, like those that close the set. Any fan of free improvisation will be thrilled. It doesn't get much better than this.

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