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Spy Vs. Spy: The Music Of Ornette Coleman

John ZornAudio CD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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MP3 Music, 17 Songs, 2008 $11.49  
Audio CD, 1990 --  
Vinyl, 1990 --  
Audio Cassette, 1989 --  

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra Musician
  • ASIN: B000002H6W
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,506 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Wru
2. Chronology
3. Word For Bird
4. Good Old Days
5. The Disguise
6. Enfant
7. Rejoicing
8. Blues Connotation
9. C & D
10. Chippie
11. Peace Warriors
12. Ecars
13. Feet Music
14. Broadway Blues
15. Space Church
16. Zig Zag
17. Mob Job

Editorial Reviews

Spy Vs. Spy - The Music Of Ornette Coleman John Zorn - Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, Joey Baron + Label: Elektra Musician

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It shouldn't work, but it does June 20, 2000
Format:Audio CD
It's been a while since I listened intensely to Zorn--used to listen a lot to albums like _Spillane_ but have been less excited by them than before. However, I just dug out _Spy Vs Spy_ again, & think it remains a fine disc. Thrashy, ultra-loud, ultra-fast versions of Ornette Coleman tunes...sounds like it should be a travesty, but it actually works phenomenally well. The album is split into two halves (the original A and B sides): the first consists of the bluntest & fastest renditions of tunes, each about one to two minutes in length. A highlight is "Chippie"--if you listen carefully at the end of the cut after the smoke clears you can hear someone breathe a sigh of relief! It's intense & funny--Joey Baron & Michael Vatcher pounding away, Mark Dresser calmly doing his thing, Tim Berne & John Zorn squalling madly. Part two (side B) has more varied & considered interpretations (some as long as 5 minutes), which often move farther from the source material. I recommend "Ecars", a terrifically swinging rendition of a tune Ornette recorded for _Ornette on Tenor_; and the final "Mob Job", which Zorn turns into a yearning, pained and painful blues, is a stunning conclusion.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not all thrash jazz. April 29, 2005
Format:Audio CD
The avant-garde jazz movements have their share of detractors, and they have their share of fanatics. And to many in the latter category, touching this music in a fashion other than originally intended is often akin to the greatest acts of travisty-- loving music that is so decidingly unpopular tends to have the effect of defensiveness-- as a result, its often the case that anyone who covers a piece from the avant-garde without doing a reading in a similar form often comes under harsh criticism from both the fanatics and the detractors-- even when Ornette Coleman got his band plugged in and changed some elements of his style, he came under harsh criticism. I suppose its often the case that its only acceptable to be different in the right ways.

It is, of course, in this context that John Zorn has recorded an album that is universally unpopular on both sides of the fence and unfairly criticisized for its most overt elements. Zorn (on alto sax), with support from Tim Berne (also alto sax), Mark Dresser (bass), Joey Baron (drums) and Michael Vatcher (drums) put together an album of Ornette Coleman songs-- often played in a proto-Naked City hardcore "thrash jazz" style-- at least on the first half of the album, the second side is a different story altogether, and any criticism of this as an album of all the same breakneck hardcore thrash jazz shows the record was not listened to all the way through.

Zorn was heavily influenced by hardcore bands and apparanetly saw no reason to keep this idiom separate from jazz (and later he'd let his take of his critics known on the sublimely titled Naked City track, "Jazz Snob- Eat S***").
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hardcorebaroquethrashjazz December 11, 2006
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Ornette Coleman's music is such an enigma because of its inability to fit to any one style of music...or because of its amorphous nature that lets it connect to so many other styles of music. This disc takes some acclimation, but its severe bombasity (even in the 'slower' tracks of the second half) is rewarding if your ears can live through the initial assault.

But that IS John Zorn's way, isn't it? At least in some of these early recordings...he slaps you upside the head with quick changes and Napalm Death speed and an onslaught that he used to carpet bomb himself an area of music that he could then go back to and refine a little. In the end, I think Zorn overevolved a bit and became a dinosaur whose carapace was too thorny to lift, but these earlier recordings have an intense sense of exploration about them, of wanting to find out where he could go and, I think, how far up the wall he could drive others.

And all this is why Coleman's music is so fitting to this spirit. Ornette Coleman has branched out his own music into multimedia explorations and different combinations, including orchestra. But it took Zorn to bring this music into a mosh pit to ironically bring out the baroque elements of the music--the precision of the cascades and the sudden, but fitting endings. This disc is worth a few listens, even if those around you are cursing their names under their breath.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great idea gone wrong November 29, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
Zorn's take on Ornette's music misses much of the subtle qualities. This is fast, hardcore, punk rock interpretations of Coleman's music, rather than a "tribute". While the players are extremely talented (Zorn is an eclectic, knowledgeable player and theorist), the dynamics here are very few; most songs are taken at around 300-to-the-quarter, and the solos consist of little more than biting the reed and honking, rather than mixing it up as, say, Pharoah Sanders might.
I should also add that Charlie Haden, in a jazz magazine interview, heard this album and thought it was noisy, that the players had little idea of what Ornette's music was about, and that they seemed to thrive on violence and volume, which is as far away as you can get from Harmolodics.
Still, a curious listen.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Who says
Who says you can't completely deconstruct Ornette Coleman's music and reconfigure it as a jamming band of squealers? Read more
Published 12 months ago by B. Auerbach
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy Energy
I absolutely adore this album. Of all the works in the John Zorn catalog, these treatments of Ornette Coleman's work really stands out. Read more
Published on April 29, 2010 by Claudia Zann
3.0 out of 5 stars Squeal to the sky
3 1/2

Though its weaponry can occasionally become redundant make no mistake, this is measured musical meth.
Published on January 19, 2010 by IRate
5.0 out of 5 stars Audio caffeine
This album is simply audio caffeine! If you play this album on your way to work, or while you're getting dressed, you will have no need for any coffee. Read more
Published on August 2, 2007 by J. D. Mack
2.0 out of 5 stars Cutting-edge boredom...
A recording that's more "interesting" than enjoyable or moving, more agenda/theory driven than ear/heart driven. Read more
Published on May 7, 2006 by BebopBoomer
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this s&*t.
Dude, this is jazz for metalheads, which is why I love it. Having recently yearned for aggression in other forms, I have discovered the powerful majesty of Coltranes' later... Read more
Published on November 6, 2005 by D. J. Galante Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Apoplexy Now
Sheer bombast. Zorn and company play with a ferocity that is nothing short of breathtaking, but these aren't pyrotechnics for the hell of it. Read more
Published on July 10, 2005 by Slap Debussey
5.0 out of 5 stars Smokin!
How can anyone give this CD a bad review!? It absolutely smokes! I mean, if you are wimp, don't listen of course. If you are into Joey Baron and John Zorn, pick it up. Read more
Published on July 5, 2005 by Igneous
1.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended for either Zorn or Coleman fans
I've got about 30 Zorn albums, but sold this one. As others have said, it's a punk hardcore thrash-jazz take on Ornette Coleman's pieces, at about 200 mph. Read more
Published on April 26, 2004 by Douglas S. Benson
4.0 out of 5 stars Others have a point, but still
I agree with the other reviewers to a certain extent. In interpreting Ornette Coleman through a "thrash jazz" filter, Zorn does miss out on a lot of Coleman's more subtle musical... Read more
Published on March 28, 2002 by Ryan
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