DJ Mike and I went to the Saturday show, featuring Zorn’s band The Dreamers. This is pop Zorn. Very accessible, jazzy melodies — accessible in a Bacharach sense, almost verging on corniness at points. One song had the happy, dippy air of a 1950s department store commercial.
But this is a band that burns, and the sizzling jams that come out of these songs meld bluesy guitar; loud surf guitar (both by Mark Ribot, of course); South American themes and percussions; Cyro Baptista making as many noises as possible; and Joey Baron just tearing it up on drums, smiling all the way of course. The stage was packed with instruments. Zorn, sitting, conducted everything with satisfied glee.
Jamie Saft got to play three keyboards, alternating piano, organ, and electric piano. (I’m guessing all three keyboards were Yoshi’s own.) Trevor Dunn, a welcome face from the Bay Area scene of the past, was digging down hard on electric bass. Kenny Wolleson, another former local, played vibraphone throughout, adding that sunny touch to a lot of the melodies. Baptista, as mentioned, just played all sorts of stuff — drums, noisemakers, whitles, clangy metal spirals. I picture him going through security with these fat sacks of stuff, trying to explain that it’s for his job.
The crowd ate it up. Many of these songs, though instrumental, have the right rhythm, melody, and guitar elements to fit on rock radio, IMHO; a relatively progressive station like KFOG could easily sneak this music into a playlist. (The lamented KKCY of the late ’80s would have been all over this album.) People didn’t clap for most of the solos, but the band got thick standing ovations for the set and the encore (which appeared to consist of two Masada tunes.) Amoeba Records had a table in the lobby to sell Zorn’s Tzadik wares, and copies of The Dreamers got snatched up like candy-coated popcorn.
The Dreamers is quite “nice,” but there’s an attitude to it. Don’t picture black-and-white suburban smiles; think instead of those little cartoon guys on the album cover, and the connection to Japanese pop culture. It’s Zorn’s nod to jazz and pop, viewed not from a retro lens, but with a hipster’s eye. (You can get the cartoon guys on a T-shirt at Tzadik, by the way. Pricey, but potentially irresistable. By the way, I haven’t seen the inside of the CD package; be reminded that Zorn sometimes employs artwork that you wouldn’t take home to mom.)