Gravitational Waves: John Zorn and Bill Laswell

Posted on in Art + Soul by Roy Strassman

At the SF Chapel in the Mission July 14, 2018

MacArthur “Genius” Fellow and alto-saxophonist/composer John Zorn is a gravitational wave—the ultra-high-energy phenomenon theorized by Einstein a century ago, and finally first observed by scientists last year—in human form.

G-waves curve space and warp time, and so it is with the wildly creative Zorn, whose seminal and prolific output spans several genres, many of which are considered avant-garde. Additionally, he does soundtracks and backgrounds for literature, poetry, and film.

From countdown to splashdown, the musicians voyaged the audience through his universe of richly textured, highly kinetic ministrations—replete with squeaks, sighs, squeals, and sheets of sound—while Bill Laswell, a renowned rock/experimental bassist in his own right, provided the slower moving atmospherics to co-create tension and discharge in the music. As is his custom, Zorn dressed in comfortable variegated fatigues, T-shirt, and Converses—with Hasidic “tsitsis” strings hanging from his hips.

The set lasted an all-too-brief hour. Afterward, the audience instantly bounded to its feet in ardent appreciation, strongly desirous of an encore. Eventually Zorn looked over to Laswell and back to the audience, and with a knowing nod, indicated that they had left it all on the bandstand and were done. Wow!


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