Review of Marc Ribot, John Zorn The Book of Heads, 1995 Tzadik


Marc Ribot, John Zorn The Book of Heads, 1995 Tzadik

An absolutely paradoxical record, a unique and complex open opera, as is its composer, John Zorn, saxophonist, composer, sound’s investigator, soundtracks’ author for essay films, real outsider, Japan lover, hard core fan, Godard’s movies and the cultural trash magus, a typical product of New York counterculture, from of the downtown that stinks about punk, no wave and bad habits.
Although he has always used the guitar, including it in an original way within the various ensembles from Naked City to Masada, and always being surrounded by excellent associates like Fred Frith, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell and Eugene Chadbourne, Zorn has very little pubblished for solo guitar.
So I think that this record can be seen (and listened to) as a sum of his guitar visions, the result of the synthesis of eighty compositions designed between the ’70s and’ 80s, condensed in 35 studies with a lenght between thirty seconds and a minute and a half, ideally designed for the composer / improviser / mad doctor Eugene Chadbourne which in those years had shared with Zorn lots of music and lots of creativity.
I have seen those scores and… wow they are something so impervius and difficoult to translate and interpret, but in this firts record, these musics are commited in the capable and versatile hands of Marc Ribot, one of the most versatile and intelligent guitarists that New York scene has ever created that has been able to demonstrate perfectly that these studies represent a tough test for any virtuous: I was lucky enough to see Mr. Ribot playing them live in a cold December night in Venice (Italy) in 1999 and I still remember the amazement at seeing him fumble with balloons, wooden chopsticks, mistreating and leading to limit his instrument, using it as a generator of atonal and unusual sounds and reversing in an instant decades of rock and jazz iconography. Listening to it is not easy and intuitive, it takes some concentration and dedication to understand and intuit the project and the supporting structure (which no doubt there are any) of these studies is not stopping the rigors sound and sounds that recall the metaphysical abrasive screams of the first Naked City and the violence of Painkiller. But here there is only the guitar, stripped, extremist, in its pure, naked essence.