Recommended: John Zorn – “The Mysteries”


John Zorn - "The Mysteries"Stunningly beautiful follow-up for the trio of Bill Frisell, Carol Emanuel, and Kenny Wollesen, on the heels of 2012’s The Gnostic Preludes.  Performing the compositions of John Zorn, who, with his mystics series, attempts to wed spiritual music of the past with modern approaches, the trio offers up rich, simple melodies upon a foundation of dynamic, vibrant rhythms.  2013’s The Mysteries doesn’t differ dramatically from its predecessor, but there is a subtle shift in the complexity of the music’s motion…  the newest offering possessing a greater intricacy of activity, of rhythms within rhythms, and thus a greater tableau across which the trio intersperses fragments of succinct melodic expressions.

Ultimately, this results in an album imminently more engrossing, in which the presentation of additional facets blurs the lines between song and dance, between melody and motion.

Your album personnel:  Bill Frisell (guitar, effects), Carol Emanuel (harp), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes, bells).  All compositions by John Zorn.

Opening track “Sacred Oracle” has Frisell skipping across Wollesen’s stream of melodic lines.  Emanuel slips in and adds a complementary line on harp, first as partners to Wollesen’s vibes, then in tandem with Frisell’s flight pattern.

“Hymn of the Naasennes” takes a more straight-forward approach, with all three members moving at the same speed, contributing differing motions to the same cadence, endowed with the enveloping tranquility of a skipping stone gliding over choppy waves.

“Dance of Sappho” moves with a different motion, of tight circles orbiting a song center that rotates in the opposite direction.  The trio’s different parts mesh into a kaleidoscopic high-speed melodic revelation, its gentle features punctuated by sharp rings of bells.

“The Bachanalia” has Frisell bringing a ghostly twang and his blurring of melody with effects to create a strange crosshatch with Emanuel’s sunny notes on harp… a match made further complex by the rhythmic cross-currents seeming, at first, quite dissimilar until a wider view shows them flowing into the same confluence.  Wollesen’s bells are like the resonant sound of buoys out on the water’s surface.

“Consolamentum” illustrates the lovely way Frisell is able to take flight with melody from a head-start of rhythmic dynamism.  He takes shuffling steps with his notes at odd intervals, building a cadence that doesn’t, immediately, sound fluid or indicate a motion gaining speed, and yet, the pattern emerges, one that displays an almost loping momentum… and from there, he takes off.

“Ode to the Cathars” begins with Frisell’s use of effects and loops, instilling a moody ambiance that borders on spooky.  But this dwindles away, and after a few steps down his guitar’s bass string, the trio jumps off into a deeply melodic tune.  Frisell throws in a few pings and whirrs of effects, but Wollesen’s deeply affecting run on vibes immerses the trio in warmth.  Even when Frisell turns up the heat on guitar, an intensity matched by Emanuel’s harp, it’s the underpinning of vibes that maintains a steady course that sees the song to its end.

“Apollo” takes on darker tones.  Melodic lines are cut short, interspersed with silences, occasionally flipped over to the dissonant side of the pillow, creating an uneasy tension that contrasts nicely with the comforting fluidity of most other album tracks.  Here, Frisell lets little effects bubble to the surface.

“Yaldaboath” is a fully immersive track, with all three artists creating a sonic wave that spreads out like an ocean enveloping the entirety of a shore line.

The album finishes strong with “The Nymphs,” a composition that accretes intensity with the thoughtful purposefulness of a skyscraper constructed slowly upward to the clouds.  Though presented with a rapid pace, Wollesen’s vibes have a timeless quality that accentuates the idea of motion and much as the quality of stillness.  Frisell takes quick leaps and hops across the surface of the vibes’ rhythm, but with a grace that belies its rate of speed.  Emanuel bridges the gap between the two, sometimes matching Wollesen’s percussive energy, sometimes synching up with Frisell’s intervallic expressions of melody.

An album of mesmerizing beauty.

Released on the Tzadik label.

Available at: Amazon CD | Amazon MP3

You can also buy the CD directly from Tzadik, and the price is actually better than Amazon’s.  Plus, it’s always better to buy directly from the artist/label.