One of the great solo discs
N. Dorward | Toronto, ON Canada | 07/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Zorn's initial reputation was established as a particularly idiosyncratic & in-your-face free-jazz saxophonist who incorporated an array of duck-calls into his work; he's since become better known for the studio-based genre-mixing of albums like _Spillane_ or the more straightforward jazz-based improvisation of the Masada discs, but his earlier style deserves attention too, & this is an excellent start. Originally two LPs recorded in the mid-1980s (one track has been removed to fit them both on a single CD), _The Classic Guide to Strategy_ is a solo disc of astounding bizarreness. Despite its performances' being cut in real time, they are as obsessed with the discontinuous jump-cut as Zorn's studio work: his procedure (as the photos in the liner notes shows) was to carefully set up a table covered with an array of duck-calls, clarinets and saxophones in such a way as to permit the instantaneous switch from one instrument to the next. The two LPs are somewhat different in approach--the first contains just two long tracks, which often contain sudden silences between bursts of sound; the second contains shorter, intenser tracks that don't let up for a moment.The collage of cries, burbles, honks, sighs and fragments of music is unique, even among Zorn's various output. It's a fine disc, through the sheer singularity and intensity of purpose that Zorn evinces on it. Fans of it might also want to check out the slightly earlier _Yankees_ (intermittently available on CD, it seems), which has Zorn pitting his duck calls against George Lewis and Derek Bailey."
You gotta listen to the samples
billy black | california | 08/06/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A close friend and fellow jazz enthusiast highly recommended 'The Classic Guide to Strategy' as an important addition to my growing collection of jazz music which comprises of some works by Jacky Jones and an album entitled 'The Best of Jazz Vol 3'. And it certainly shines with originality, an exqusite work setting new landmarks in contempary jazz.
The album consists of various noises - bird sounds, duck calls ,the techniques used here are quite similar to recordings I have made myself which involve banging a half filled plastic water bottle against a wall while repeatedly saying the words 'quack quack'
It must be noted that work of this nature is rarely if ever produced by jazz musicians or any artist in any field of music for that matter. It's a pleasure to see an artist stoop far below certain levels in order to deliver their work to an established loyal and dedicated fanbase.
The CD cover comes sporting a rather unique oriental symbol
giving that mysterious feel to it rather like Enigma did with those celtic crosses.
Normally a listener of west coast gansta rap music , I have taken the time out to listen to these noises on John's new album, very appropriate as background sound at formal meals or functions. Yeah - real unique this one . Just be sure to check out those samples."
4 1/2 stars-- fierce intensity.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 02/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Collecting John Zorn's two 1980's solo reed recordings, "The Classic Guide to Strategy Volumes One & Two" is, like much of Zorn's work, difficult. In the liner notes, Zorn refers to his youthful "speed, precision and intensity" as something that he could never hope to replicate, and this is, by and large, the defining characteristics of these recordings. Performing on (collectively) alto and soprano sax, Eb and Bb clarinet and game calls, the two volumes, recorded in 1983 and 1985, present a staggering display of intense, fierce music.
But this isn't a solo sax record like anyone familiar with the vocabulary has come to expect. It certainly touches on "For Alto" and the like, but by and large it's a typical selection of Zorn's music-- built of small moments, sometimes fierce and aggressive cartoon-like blasts, sometimes suggestive of melodic theme. In many ways, these can be viewed as the quintessential Zorn recordings: it seems everything he's done is built around these notions of small blocks, and pretty much everything he'd touch upon in the two decades since these were recorded are hinted at in here. In particular, these recordings seem to have a lot in common with the string pieces (i.e. "Necromonicon", "Walpurgisnacht") that have been coming out lately.
Having said all this, this is not music for the feint of heart, and even for Zorn, it can be excessively challenging. I think it may have been an error to have put the two recordings on one CD-- Volume One and Two are both around 40 minutes long, and with the CD stretching to 78 minutes, it can be a lot to take in one sitting. Nonetheless, there is little music out there that is as fiercely intense, and in their own way, powerful, as these recordings, and for anyone interested in Zorn's music, this is essential listening."