Search - John Zorn :: The Book Of Heads

The Book Of Heads
John Zorn
The Book Of Heads
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (35) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: John Zorn
Title: The Book Of Heads
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Tzadik
Release Date: 9/19/1995
Genres: Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Classical
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 702397700920

CD Reviews

A look into two of jazz's greatest heads.
Michael Stack | 09/03/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Warning: this CD may cause "spontaneous overflows of powerful feeling." Composed in 1978 for Eugene Chadbourne, and recorded in one day (!) in 1995, these 35 etudes stretch any definition of guitar-playing one might have. Marc Ribot was certainly the musician John Zorn needed to express his ideas of what the guitar should sound like--Ribot has the sensitivity in ear and fingertip to bring the nuances of Zorn's composition to realization. After listening to this CD, one needs no more proof of Zorn's excellence as a composer, nor of Ribot's virtuosity as a guitarist."
Extraordinary but ultimately unsatisfying.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 11/23/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

""The Book of Heads" was composed by John Zorn in 1978 for guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, a set of 35 etudes for solo guitar that was designed to push the guitarist to extremes, utilizing extended techniques-- both those associated with classical guitar, those innovated by Chadbourne and his contemporaries, and those Zorn came up with on his own. The material sat, unrecorded, until 1995 when Zorn, no longer working regularly with Chadbourne, called upon guitarist Marc Ribot to perform them.

Ribot, a guitarist of enormous talent, began his long association with Zorn eight years prior to this as a contributor to Zorn's soundtrack work and as a member of the ensemble on the superb "Kristaalnacht", but this was really the first feature for Ribot on a Zorn record. The liner notes indicate that six months of preparation were underway before this was recorded.

Ribot tackles the pieces with extraordinary virtuosity and flair-- the sheer range of technique on display here is stunning. I play a bit of guitar myself, but cannot readily identify how some of the sounds are produced (at one point it sounds like he's sawing the neck of the guitar). But ultimately, it feels more like a technique display more than anything else.

One thing I will note-- I've seen Ribot perform pieces from this record live, and in those cases, I've found them intriguing. I suspect that the visual aspect of seeing the technique involved assists in the notion of understanding the innovation behind it, although I will state that while I found the pieces more engaging, I still felt they lacked purpose. But much of Zorn's early work (the Game Pieces for example) lend themselves far better to live rather than studio performances.

On the other hand, there are folks who swear by this record. It certainly is interesting, but I just can't get into it."
I want Marc Ribot in my band.
Lord Chimp | Monkey World | 05/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"_The Book of Heads_ is a collection of etudes for solo guitar that John Zorn wrote for Eugene Chadburne, an experimental musician somewhat in the vein of Derek Bailey, doing avant-jazz and free-improvisation with esoteric techniques by the ream. The actual recording here has guitarist Marc Ribot, and i like him so much he's actually the main reason i got this, although i do enjoy John Zorn's work of course. i remember working one night and having "Mochin" on the _Bar Kokhba_ cd on repeat for something like four hours... Then there's that amazing stuff on the _Taboo & Exile_ cd, and piles of improvised material. Ribot is amazing, i can't explain it. now just so there's no mistake, this collection is much more...erm, of an intellectual exercise than an emotional one. Despite some unfavorable reviews from others, this is a marvelous album, dripping variety and Ribot's exquisite guitar playing, who deploys an eclectic range of techniques. maybe people just want something different, rather than short little pieces each based around just a few ideas. i don't see why someone not interested in weird, avant-garde solo guitar would not like this and listen to it many times, however. Anyway, i think Ribot's playing is amazing and anything he does is worth owning, and he has a special connection with Zorn's music and brings the composer's imagination to life with craft and spirit. i understand he put a lot of work into studying these pieces. There is some really bizarre, INTENSE stuff here, like the sixth etude where Ribot makes the guitar sound like a contrainer being broken open and its contents spilling out with a wet splat, some things are just creepy sounding like no.14, or there's no.33 where he puts on a detailed cartoon-music soundscape single-handedly. then there's no.25 which sounds like some kind of disgusting torture scene. this is just guitar mind you, but it's evocative in its own way and it's fun to listen to it. technically i do not understand how most of the album is made, and for almost its entirety, it is one tiny revelation after another. quite nice and you should consider checking it out."