Best of Tzadik Records 2021


Tzadik Records is a very special thing to me. John Zorn’s label showcases his own compositions, ranging mostly from jazz to classical, as well as other groups and albums who are spearheading their respective genres. It’s often pretty difficult to listen to these albums, since they are usually not streaming online, so I’ve gathered them all here and got the five best Tzadik releases of 2021. This way, you’ll know where to start looking to dive into the surreal world of Zorn.


Number Five: John Zorn – Heaven and Earth Magick


Heaven and Earth Magick is one of the truer Zorn albums. You can clearly hear his typical sound and quirks, accelerandi, arpeggios, diminished scales, all of that… and more! Played by Jorge Roeder on bass, Ches Smith on drums, Stephen Gosling on piano, and 橋本紗枝 (Hashimoto Sae) on vibraphone, this is one of the best Zorn releases!


Number Four: The Gnostic Trio – Gnosis: The Inner Light


Harp, vibraphone, guitar, and Rhodes… Yup, that makes for quite an ethereal, serene, spiritual album! Played respectively by Carol Emmanuel, Kenny Wollesen, and Bill Frisell—also known as the Gnostic Trio—with John Medeski, this tribute to Ennio Morricone is transcendental and solemn, and wouldn’t be out of place being played in one of the great cathedrals of the world. One beautiful work by Zorn!


Number Three: Chaos Magick – The Ninth Circle: Orpheus in the Underworld


Played here by Simulacrum plus Brian Marsella on Rhodes and mellotron—also known as the Chaos Magick quartet—The Ninth Circle is a conceptual adventure inspired by Orpheus and Eurydice, and themes from the legend and story can be found all throughout Zorn’s composition, from the \(\frac{9}{8}\) rhythms to the Hellenic melodies, and the band breathes such a strong breath of life into them!


Number Two: Trigger – Bagatelles, Volume 3


In 2021, John Zorn started releasing recordings of his Bagatelles, three hundred new compositions to be played by some of the best bands and musicians of today. My favourite recording, chosen between this year’s eight volumes, was Trigger’s. I’ve already mentioned the group here, and I adore their noise, their fuzz, their chaos, and they’re perfect to play some of the hardest hitting Zorn material!


Number One: Simulacrum – Nostradamus: The Death of Satan


Played by the jazzcore band Simulacrum, which here is incarnated by John Medeski on organ, Matt Hollenberg on guitar, and Kenny Grohowski on drums, Nostradamus is a relentless, vibrant, and sometimes chaotic offering from John Zorn, and it’s got some of his best moments from 2021! If you like it proggy, the album presents a wide variety of atmospheres and energies; this one will be right your alley!


Notable Releases

Hover over foreign scripts for pronunciation and romanization.

Friday, 29 January

John Zorn – Bagatelles, Set One

~153:00
various
New York, New York
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Read our review.

Label page

The Gnostic Trio – Gnosis: The Inner Light

~43:00
contemporary classical
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 26 February

John Zorn – Heaven and Earth Magick

~55:00
avant-garde jazz
New York, New York
צ

Label page

Julian Lage, Gyan Riley, and Bill Frisell – Teresa de Ávila

~41:00
contemporary classical
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 23 April

John Zorn – Chaos Magick

~40:00
jazzcore
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 21 May

Archipelago X – Archipelago X

~44:00
contemporary classical
New York
צ

Label page


Wednesday, 23 June

Gyan Riley – Silver Lining

45:15
contemporary classical, jazz
New York
צ

Tracklist (click to display)

Julian Lage, Gyan Riley, and Bill Frisell – Parables

~41:00
contemporary classical, jazz
New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 6 August

John Medeski – Crawlspace, an Electro-Acoustic Fantasy

40:49
electroacoustic
New York, New York
צ

Label page

Simulacrum – Nostradamus: The Death of Satan

~42:00
avant-garde jazz
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 1 October

John Zorn – Meditations on the Tarot

~49:00
avant-garde jazz
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 15 October

Hive Mind – Hive Mind

~50:00
jazzcore
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 5 November

John Zorn – Bagatelles, Set Two

~183:00
various
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 26 November

Chaos Magick – The Ninth Circle: Orpheus in the Underworld

~40:00
jazzcore
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 10 December

Julian Lage, Gyan Riley, and Bill Frisell – A Garden of Forking Paths

~44:00
contemporary classical
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Friday, 17 December

New Masada Quartet – מ (Mēm)

~53:00
jazzcore
New York, New York
צ

Label page


Best of 2021

01/01 – Best of Afrobeat
01/02 – Best of Atmospheric Black Metal
01/03 – Best of Avant-Garde Black Metal
01/04 – Best of Brutal Death Metal
01/05 – Best of Classical
01/06 – Best of Death Metal
01/07 – Best of Deathcore
01/08 – Best of Doom Metal
01/09 – Best of Folk
01/10 – Best of Grindcore
01/11 – Best of Hardcore
01/12 – Best Improvisation
01/13 – Best of Indie Rock
01/14 – Best of Jazz Fusion
01/15 – Best of Jazzcore
01/16 – Best of Math Rock
01/17 – Best of Mathcore
01/18 – Best of Metalcore
01/19 – Best of Modern Jazz
01/20 – Best of Noise Rock
01/21 – Best of Nu Jazz
01/22 – Best of Nu Prog
01/23 – Best of Pop
01/24 – Best of Post-Hardcore
01/25 – Best of Post-Metal
01/26 – Best of Post-Rock
01/27 – Best of Progressive Metal
01/28 – Best of Progressive Rock
01/29 – Best of Punk
01/30 – Best of Sludge
01/31 – Best Synth Music
02/01 – Best of Technical Death Metal
02/02 – Best of Tzadik Records

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