Personnel: Wadada Leo Smith (trumpet); Wadada Leo Smith; John Zorn (alto saxophone); Susie Ibarra (drums).
Recording information: Tonic, New York, NY (09/22/2003).
This eighth volume in the John Zorn 50th Birthday Celebration series on Tzadik is most of all a blowing session with a ton of surprises. Recorded impeccably during the monthlong series at Tonic in New York, this bunch appears in both duo and trio configurations and the sparks fly throughout. There are two sets of music contained here. The first, a series of duets between Zorn and Susie Ibarra, runs the gamut improvisationally from the knotty skitter and skate of "Meridian" and the Eastern motif in "Rising Sun" to the spacious tonal inquiries of "Spirit Writing," where Ibarra's elongated brush work provides a stunning backdrop texture to Zorn's melodic modal inquiry. The second set, beginning with "Ipsissimi," is a trio session on three of four tunes. The interplay between Zorn and Wadada Leo Smith is nothing short of breathtaking most of the time, each man finding complete aural empathy with the other as Ibarra not only prods but drives them toward each other in a crystalline, precise, and flowing manner that suggests the out of time and space work of Sunny Murray. On "The Ascending Arc," the two men play in a duo that is full of warmth, humor, and subtlety before the trio re-engages to take it out on "Full Fathom Five," a passionate, unruly, and wonderfully raucous performance. This is one volume in this series not to miss. ~ Thom Jurek