John Zorn and Fred Frith are both master improvisers with a long history between them. Late Works documents an October 2009 session, the first time the two improvised in a studio rather than a live setting. Fans know what to expect. Zorn's palette of alto sounds is unsurpassed, but he's not the all-out aural terrorist he once was (don't worry, he can still peel the paint when he wants to). Now mixed in with the squeaks and squonks are some melodic elements which only expand his improvising vocabulary. Frith also wrangles some truly amazing sounds from his electric guitar, often sounding like there's more than one guitarist (by the way, these are live improvisations done in real time: no editing or overdubs). The really amazing thing about these two in performance is how they listen and react to one another. They can mimic each other tonally to a ridiculous degree: Zorn gets a metallic edge to his sound to match Frith's prepared guitarisms, or Frith can make his guitar squeal like a wounded cat to match Zorn's alto wailing. At one point in "Slow Lattice," Frith's tapping on the fretboard meshes perfectly with Zorn's tapping on the sax keys. It borders on telepathic. Most of the tracks are dynamic and energetic, but they do slow it down for a couple tracks. The aforementioned "Slow Lattice" is languid and haunting. "The Fourth Mind" is slow, pensive, and melodic (and a definite album highlight). "Horse Rehab" also features some nice melodic playing from Zorn. But tracks like "Foetid Ceremony" have all the skronk and fire that one would expect from these two. Free improv isn't for everyone (listeners or performers), but it doesn't get much better than this.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard