September of 2003 marked John Zorn's 50th birthday, and he marked the occasion with a monthlong series of concerts at Tonic. On September 8, 2004, he played a solo saxophone set that has been released as The Classic Guide to Strategy, Vol. 3: The Fire Book. Interestingly enough, the recording took place almost 18 years to the day after his last solo saxophone recording, The Classic Guide to Strategy, Vol. 2. Over those 18 years, Zorn went from being a fairly obscure maverick, perhaps best known for his duck calls and game pieces, to quite the celebrated composer. His style and tone also evolved over the years, right along with his reputation, and these years of experience lead to a more enjoyable listening experience than either of the two previous volumes of The Classic Guide to Strategy. The Classic Guide to Strategy, Vol. 3: The Fire Book is more than just a solo performance; it's like an encyclopedia of alto saxophone technique in a musical context. Zorn squeals, sputters, blows cool, asks questions then answers in a different voice, and produces an unbelievable assortment of sounds, while simultaneously creating a structure where these different techniques can relate to each other. His jump-cut style lends itself well to the solo context, and he keeps the listener's attention by never staying in one place too long. Any fan of free improvisation or any student of the alto saxophone would do well to check out The Classic Guide to Strategy, Vol. 3: The Fire Book. It demonstrates in yet another way that John Zorn is truly one of the masters of his instrument.
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard
|The Fire Book, for alto saxophone|