John Zorn (Composer): Nosferatu

Audio Samples

>Nosferatu: Desolate Landscape
>Nosferatu: Mina
>Nosferatu: The Battle of Good and Evil
>Nosferatu: Sinistera
>Nosferatu: Van Helsing
>Nosferatu: Fatal Sunrise
>Nosferatu: Hypnosis
>Nosferatu: Lucy
>Nosferatu: Nosferatu
>Nosferatu: The Stalking
>Nosferatu: The Undead
>Nosferatu: Death Ship
>Nosferatu: Jonathan Harker
>Nosferatu: Vampires at Large
>Nosferatu: Renfield
>Nosferatu: Stalker Dub

Track List

>Nosferatu: Desolate Landscape
>Nosferatu: Mina
>Nosferatu: The Battle of Good and Evil
>Nosferatu: Sinistera
>Nosferatu: Van Helsing
>Nosferatu: Fatal Sunrise
>Nosferatu: Hypnosis
>Nosferatu: Lucy
>Nosferatu: Nosferatu
>Nosferatu: The Stalking
>Nosferatu: The Undead
>Nosferatu: Death Ship
>Nosferatu: Jonathan Harker
>Nosferatu: Vampires at Large
>Nosferatu: Renfield
>Nosferatu: Stalker Dub

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

All About Jazz - Thomas Carroll
The idea of saxophonist/composer John Zorn writing music to accompany a production about vampires has exciting implications. After all, it would seem logical that a man who has, over the past 40 years, helped expand the scope of sounds that can be considered music should be able to craft something truly mind-bending when dealing with such a spooky subject. Surprisingly, however, Zorn has produced a relatively tame score that translates into an accessible album when confronted with the task of writing music for a Polish stage production of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Zorn's Nosferatu is a generally haunting album, but the composer punctuates the doom and gloom with moments of grandeur, aggression and even outright jazziness. Zorn brings together keyboardist Rob Burger, bassist Bill Laswell and percussionist Kevin Norton to augment his own alto sax and electronics playing on this soundtrack.

Norton's vibraphone playing is the primary textural element contributing to the album's eerie timbre. Many tracks consist of almost exclusively vibes and another keyboard instrument, usually acoustic or electric piano. These tracks range from the elegant and minimalistic "Mina," which has the album's only remotely uplifting melody, and the electronic drone of "Sinistera," to the chilling "Van Helsing" and "Renfield." The title track brings the spookiness level to a climax as Norton, still playing vibraphone, is accompanied only by bat-like squeaks, suspended cymbal swells and echoing human breath (performed by Zorn). ... read more...

Album Notes

Audio Mixer: Bill Laswell .

Recording information: EastSide Sound, NYC (06/2011).

Rather than a John Zorn conceptual recording, Nosferatu was a commissioned work for a Polish theater group's dramatic production based on the Bram Stoker novel. Zorn gathered Rob Burger (piano and organ), Kevin Gordon (xylophone, drums, bells, and Tibetan prayer bowls), and bassist Bill Laswell together for this project. The composer played alto saxophone on four cuts, a bit of acoustic or Rhodes piano on others, and electronics on one more. Nosferatu is a proper score. Its 16 cues range from two minutes to over seven-and-a-half. Musically it's all over the place (a good thing). The character themes are the most formal compositions here, with piano and xylophones as their sole instrumentation. "Mina" is elegantly elliptical, and mysterious with classical overtones. "Lucy" is almost romantic in its dreaminess without sacrificing Zorn's trademark lyric twists and turns. "Jonathan Harker" contains a bluesy, modal feel. Others, such as the brief title cut, are almost experimental in texture with their lack of a fixed framework. "The Stalking" is the album's longest track and is downright dubwise. Fueled by a truly creepy organ, a shuffling, sinister drum kit, and Laswell's fat, dank bassline in the driver's seat, it also hosts Zorn's alto chittering in from the margin, while the organ, double bass, and drums plod forward menacingly. Likewise, the closing track is, in fact, meta: it's another deep, humid rhythm-fest entitled "Stalker's Dub." Speaking of menace, the barely contained rumbling drums and bass throb in "The Battle of Good and Evil" set up a Zorn skronkfest on the alto -- but it contains a surprise, too, in that he finds a Jewish folk chant to evoke as a melody line in the middle of the chaos. When Burger's organ begins freely improvising against the horn, it feels like free jazz meeting heavy metal -- without the guitars. "Death Grip" despite its ordained slow pace, spaciousness, and brevity, is the most abstract thing here. With the ever-changing nature of its music and the relatively short cues, Nosferatu feels much shorter than it is; it's a deeply focused work that holds together easily. While its very subject matter dictates sinister overtones, the music found here, with few exceptions, is quite pleasurable and accessible listening; when taken together, its cues suggest a new kind of American Gothic. ~ Thom Jurek



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