John Zorn, Title: John Zorn's Cobra, Tokyo Operations '94, Label: Avant

Japanese performers play six interpretations of the piece "Cobra", which was composed by Zorn in 1984. The piece itself has a start/stop structure, where rapid, total assault sections (like most of Zorn's Naked City work) alternate with quieter sections (vaugely like snake-charmer music). The arrangements here have a clear "Japanese" flavor to them, though this varies from being a traditional flavor to a more modern flavor, with a sound a bit like "japanoise" bands, if rarely that harsh.

Recommended: track 4 (smooth transitions to weird destinations), track 2 (bi-traditional), & track 6 (self-conscious weirdness).

Track 1 (6:07) leads with a quiet flute (really Shakuhachi, I guess) solo, then the female vocalist begins to yell, and it kicks loose into Naked City madness. And then, of course, these two modes alternate.

Track 2 (9:27) has the most "traditional" sound... with long stretches that sound like traditional Japanese music (calm, lilting, peaceful) alternating with some very Western sounding "traditional" jazz, (very cool, rhythmic jazz).

Track 3 (8:08) has very intense contrasts, kicking off fast and hard, abruptly switching to the quiet flutey sections, etc.

Track 4 (8:54) speaks to me the most... beginning softer with a more traditional sound, getting weirder, more angular, more modern, before it begins to alternate between the two modes. The transitions aren't quite so jarring in this version. Some sections of this actually have an African sound to my ear... especially the fast, driving crescendo at the conclusion.

Track 5, (8:05) lead: fast monotonous pounding and chanting, augmented by flute-like sounds. The quiet sections, are quite quiet, flute solos.

Track 6 (9:54) is perhaps the most self-consciously weird track. Noisy, but never too noisy.

An interesting CD... but isn't six versions of this a bit much?

Ortin Doo - Ito Taeko
Vocal - Yamamoto Kyoko
Bass - Mekken
Koto - Maruta Miki
Hichiriki - Nakamura Hitomi
Gidayu - Tanaka Yumiko
Shakuhachi - Takei Makoto
Percussion - Senba Kiyohiko
Shamisen - Kinoshita Shinchi
Guitar - Uchihashi Kazuhisa
percussion - Uemura Masahiro
Dengakubue, Nokan - Isso Yukihiro

Contact information: 
Disk Union
2-3 Kanda Awajicho, Chiyoda-Ku, 
Tokyo 101, Japan