[NOTE: I once again am having formatting problems as I edit my text so there will be missing boldface and italics in this post.]
[As an aside, it is amazing what cameleons Medeski and Baron are, or rather what amazing virtuosos. Medeski's last CD was solo piano music of exquisite touch and quietness,at other times he is part of Martin Medeski and Wood, and then he has played on thrashing sets for Zorn. Baron plays mainstream jazz behind classic pianists like Enrico Pieranunzi and Steve Kuhn and recently with the "Enfants Terribles" of Lee Konitz, Gary Peacock, Bill Frissell and himself, and can also rock out on Tzadik sets at other times.]
"We must storm the citadels of enlightenment, the means are at hand"
(from a letter by Burroughs to Gysin)
And storm them he does in these nine passages with names like "Psychic Conspiracy", "The Conqueror Worm" and "1001 Nights in Marrakech." All of this background really is interesting but the music speaks for itself with layers of sounds from the four instruments.
So what is the music like specifically? "Psychic Conspiracy" leads off and "The Wild Boys" ends the CD, and they are the most free and avant garde trips, full of runs from the piano and vibes both in tandem and in opposition, and a lot of nice sounds that are not particularly orderly at times. The percussion and bass provide a solid floor for these romps once they get involved, that are not particularly orderly at times but are nice sounding. Percussion appears after a while to provide a pulse and rhythm to the affair. It is cacophany in action, interesting but not arresting.
On the other hand, the remainder of the set is arresting, with lots of lovely melodies, point and counterpoint play, and both smooth and jagged edges that constantly shift. Some of the tunes, like "The Dream Machine" shimmer, some like "Git-a-Coeur" have deep atmospheric effects and several cut jumps as Zorn's pieces are knit into a single composition. There are latin touches for "The Third Mind" and mid-eastern flavoring for "The Conquerer Worm" and 1000 Nights in Marrakech." There are even classical sounding compositions like "Light Chapels."
The four musicians are masters of the techniques of Zorn from plenty of other CDs and provide the energy, emotions, and intuitive playing off each other that make this a very intersting and highly enjoyable listen. The CD is full of different styles, rapidly changing dynamics and tempos, and some nicely paced changes from song to song.
If you've liked any of the other Zorn CDs I have talked about previously I bleeive you will like this one as well. A highly polished bit of mysticism, lyricism, and style.