WTF?! Wednesdays: John Zorn, “Chronology” from Spy vs. Spy (1989)

I am of two minds on this particular album. When I heard that John Zorn was to put out an album of Ornette Coleman covers, I was definitely thrilled. Zorn was obviously a fan, and has big ears. Would he turn the compositions on their side, taking them in from different angles? Would he slow them down and stretch them out? Or maybe filter them through a completely different style? Angry reggae, maybe?

Well, what he did was to crank them full of amphetamines. Here I have to admit that I was not thrilled after my first listen. Heck, I’m not particularly thrilled all of these years later, but that sort of depends on the day. It seems to depend on whether I’m interesting in hearing Zorn and Tim Berne squeal and honk their way through the Ornette melodies. “Chronology” will give you a decent idea of what the rest of the album is like, though if you hang with it long enough, you’ll see that they sort of slow the tempo toward the later tunes.

I wonder what Ornette thinks of this stuff?

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at