John Zorn

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Hockey Review

by François Couture

Hockey belongs to John Zorn's early works. The piece dates from 1978 and is shorter (in principle) than Lacrosse or Pool, also from the same period. This disc contains 17 takes of "Hockey" by two very different groups. Group one appears on the first four tracks and consists of Eugene Chadbourne (electric guitar), Wayne Horvitz (amplified piano), and Bob Ostertag in one of his rare recordings with the Serge modular synthesizer. Group two is an acoustic trio of Polly Bradfield (violin), Mark E. Miller (percussion), and Zorn on duck calls and clarinet mouthpiece. The inner workings of the piece are left to the listener's imagination, but the composer suggests a likeness to entertainer Jack Benny (and to a lesser extent Buster Keaton). The second trio is the best place to study the piece. The players each have a very limited number of possible gestures and it sounds like they have to keep "passing the puck" (to pick up on the title). They play one at a time, one note at a time. The exercise quickly gets tiresome over the 13 takes of group two. Some are incomplete readings interrupted by Zorn for this or that reason; the duration varies from 45 seconds to close to four minutes. Group one is much more interesting, if only because Chadbourne is Machiavellian and the interaction between players sounds less forced. There is also more variety between the four takes (two stretch over 11 minutes). This disc was first released as part of the box set The Parachute Years.

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