Review of James Moore plays The Book of Heads, 2015 Tzadik
James Moore is a versatile guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, a founding member of the electric guitar quartet Dither, and performs internationally as a soloist and ensemble player. A native of the Bay Area, James Moore studied classical guitar at UC Santa Cruz and the Yale School of Music, and has since immersed himself in New York’s creative music communities, earning the title of “local electric guitar hero” by Time Out NY and “model new music citizen” by the NY Times. James. He worked with Bang on a Can, Alarm Will Sound, Clogs, and members of the National.
With this record, released by Tzadik twenty years after Marc Ribot’s storical edition, Moore plays again the 35 studies created by Zorn between 1976-78 and edited in 1995. The best thing is that this is a special edition contains both a CD and a beautifully produced DVD of a film by Stephen Taylor showcasing the eclectic techniques involved in and all the abilities necessary to play those studies.
So the DVD permits a depth view into what Tzadik itself called “of the most gonzo music ever created for solo guitar”.
As for the other two editions, most of the pieces are in the one/two-minute range so things happen fast, and you can have any loss of attention. Sometimes I think about these studies like TV commercial spots, so quick, so dense of tight informations, like in Zorn’s file cards compositions or in his games pieces. Attention is really important if your want to get the idiosyncratic guitar languages played here, mixing together free improvisation, cartoons, film noir, world music, philosophy, rock’s licks and jazz’s riffs.
This idea that an etude could be focused on the exploration of a particular technique was borne out by wide-ranging material wherein scrapes, bowings, strums, and scrabbly, post-punk flurries appear alongside classical patterns and high-pitched drones, as Zorn’s compositional approach in the mid ’70s was characterized by a restless channel-surfing quality and the great semiotic ability to mix together different styles and genres.
So I think that Book of Heads is now more then a simple guitar studies’ collection. Even if the scores are still the same from 1995 it’s seems to me that they are growing, they are more like an “Opera Aperta” (to quote Umberto Eco) and that their influences is expanding between guitarists all over the world. Let’s hope for more new editions.