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John Zorn Biography
 
New York’s John Zorn is not only a musician of many genres, but an artist who is constantly creating new ones. An experimental composer and saxophonist, Zorn has etched out a career working with musicians from multiple genres, and creating forward-looking expressions through various musical forms.

As a youth, Zorn played the guitar, flute and piano. After discovering Free Jazz at college, Zorn dropped out of school and moved to Manhattan, where he performed concerts inside small apartments and abandoned buildings. Since those earlier days, Zorn has been nothing short of prolific with his output of music. Releasing several albums a year and drawing on a diverse group of inspirations, Zorn has composed music for Jazz ensembles, symphony orchestras, experimental and Rock groups, as well as numerous films.

Zorn is best known for a project called Masada that consists of a Free Jazz influenced band playing compositions and improvisations based on traditional Jewish scales, and his album The Big Gundown, where Zorn radically reworked the music of Ennio Morricone. John opened the Tzadik recording label as a way to ensure not only the continuity of his own innovative music, but those from others genres and backgrounds that are breaking down older fundamental musical boundaries as well.

Zorn is a true postmodern artist, obsessed with the extremes of the various genres he works to incorporate. As a leader, he likes to use distinct “blocks” in unique and abrupt ways and set various rules for different improvisational ventures, thereby constraining the player’s intuitive freedoms in a purposeful way that pushes the overall experimentation of the projects that he directs.
 
 
Mike Stern Biography
 
Born in Boston, 1952, Mike Stern got his big break while still a student at the Berklee College of Music when, recommended by his teacher Pat Metheny, he was hired as a guitarist for Blood, Sweat & Tears. After playing with the Billy Cobham Powerhouse Fusion Band for a while, Stern moved to NYC and was recruited to play guitar for Miles Davis’ celebrated 1981 comeback. In ‘85, Stern enrolled in a 2nd tour of duty with Miles and after leaving the group, released his first album as a leader, Neesh. 
 
The 3-time Grammy nominee, equally adept in the worlds of Rock and Blues as in Jazz, participated in various projects throughout the following years, including a 2 year stint with the Brecker Brothers Band. Stern’s formidable technique has earned him praise and popularity alike for his distinctive style that fluctuates effortlessly between Bebop and Rock. Adapting a modern rock sound with the sax sensibility and legato approach of Jazz greats John Coltrane and Sonny Fortune, Stern also touches upon the bluesy string-bending techniques of Buddy Guy and BB King.
 
In 1993, he released the distinctly jazz-based Standards (And Other Songs), compelling Guitar Player magazine to name him “Best Jazz Guitarist Of The Year.”
 
After his 1997 release Give And Take, along with the continuing critical praise, Mike’s adept soloing won him the Gibson Award for “Best Jazz Guitarist,” a notable accolade in an ongoing career full of achievement. Although not yet a household name, Mike Stern’s influence has yielded a generation of imitators, not to mention some awe-inspiring music.

 
Sun Ra Biography
 
Born Herman Blount Poole in Birmingham, Alabama, Sun Ra is known as much for his stage antics and cosmic philosophy as he is for his music. After combining his childhood nickname with that of the Egyptian God of the Sun, Sun Ra dropped his birth name and began to create a unique persona that would help elevate his orchestra and spread a larger message then many musicians of his time. Claiming he was part of an angel race from the planet Saturn, Sun Ra and his Arkestra used the stage as a pulpit to preach tolerance, awareness and peace.
 
Sun Ra’s career had barely began to blossom in the earlier 1940’s when his draft number was called. After filing for conscientious objector status, Ra was initially jailed before being transferred to a civilian service camp. Unable to complete his service due to a hernia, Sun Ra spent the remainder of the decade working with Wynonie Harris, Fletcher Henderson, and in a swing trio with Coleman Hawkins and Stuff Smith.
 
The 1950’s saw Sun Ra’s music begin to shift from big-band swing to the dramatic cosmic jazz predominately associated with his career. He legally changed his name to Le Sony’r Ra and put together the Sun Ra Arkestra which, although it included hundreds of musicians over the years, was primarily centered around saxophonists Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, and Pat Patrick; each  dedicating 40 years to Sun Ra’s unconventional band. The Arkestra made a name for itself through it’s unique brand of adventurous music and lively performances that featured Egyptian and extraterrestrial costumed musicians, dancers and even martial artists.
 
In the 1960’s, Sun Ra brought the Arkestra from their Chicago heritage east to NYC. This profoundly changed the group’s music in a variety of ways.  The group underwent a Free Jazz influenced experimental period that included use of new electronic effects such as tape delays and reverberation. Ra also insisted that all band members must double on a percussive instrument. The saxophonist began playing flutes, oboes and clarinets, and the recently deceased Robert Moog gave Sun Ra an early prototype of his famed synthesizer.
 
Ra’s aversion to the corporate face of the recording industry led to the formation of Saturn Records, which handled most of the group’s releases. Although numerous albums were released, the Arkestra resorted to communal living to combat New York’s high living costs. As the band aged and searched for some financial stability, Sun Ra moved the troupe to Philadelphia where they settled into an equally eclectic, yet more accessible, style of jazz that still incorporated their signature out-of-the-ordinary performances. After finding success on the European festival circuit and fulfilling a lifelong dream to play at the Pyramids in Egypt, Sun Ra continued to travel and perform with his troupe until 1993 when his brilliant life ended, unless you believe the legions of diehard fans who presume he merely returned home to his native planet, Saturn.
 
 
Archie Shepp Biography
 
Tenor Saxophonist extraordinaire Archie Shepp was born in Fort Lauderdale in 1937. His initial inclination after graduating from Goddard College was to become an actor, but financial failure led Shepp to professional music. Archie was given a break into the music industry when up-and-coming avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor hired him. Shepp appeared on most of Taylor’s notable albums before setting out on his own with the New York Contemporary Five Band.
 
Admiration from jazz great John Coltrane led to Shepp’s first recording contract with Impulse!. Shepp had done a few sessions for the label when, in 1965, Shepp recorded the remarkably influential Ascension with Coltrane. He followed it up with New Thing at Newport, a record (featuring ‘Trane on one side and Shepp on the other) that both elevated and cemented his place alongside Coltrane on the Free Jazz podium.
 
As Shepp’s career began to flourish, he became equally known for his adept playing style and his political and social criticisms. Albums such as Fire Music featured Shepp reading a Malcolm X elegy, James Baldwin quotations, and set the stage for Shepp’s increasing interest in African heritage and it’s role in popular music. On The Magic of the Ju Ju, Shepp epitomizes this curiosity by ornately combining African rhythms with the outwardly chaotic saxophone styles of the avant-garde. This was just the latest experiment in a career of non-conformism that also included penning two plays, The Communist in 1965, and Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy in 1972.
 
Shepp is currently a teacher at the University of Massachusetts and continues to impress fans with his playing technique. With walls full of accolades, Shepp spoke his mind and played his horn in a fashion that simultaneously made him one of the most innovative, influential and controversial figures in Jazz.
 
 
Rabih Abou Khalil Biography

Rabih Abou Khalil belongs to a group of third world artists and people largely ignored by Euro-American society. However, in today’s ever-evolving  marketplace, the native of Lebanon has become a welcome change in a jazz world that’s become increasingly complacent. 
 
Khalil was born in Beirut, where he lived until 1978 when civil war broke out in his homeland. He relocated to Germany, where he studied the flute and developed a deep analytical interest in classical European structure. This fixation enabled Khalil to reexamine the structure of his native music, and consider how outside influences could work to evolve both his native music and the new music he was rapidly becoming familiar with. In further exploration of this effort, Khalil returned to the instrument he learned as a child, the oud, a fretless, big-bellied guitar-like instrument, and using Western practice methods he crafted a playing technique that helped mold his individual sound. Where most Arabic instruments seem to reflect or imitate the human voice, Rabih treated his oud more like a European instrument, drawing inspiration from the Western flute and guitar.
 
Despite his experimentation and cultural divergence, his compositions remain a unique quilt, reflective of his background, yet simultaneously expansive. Both an originator of World Jazz, long before the term existed, and a musician at the forefront of the Arab avant-garde, his first-class reputation is not developed on the basis of exoticism, but rather on his creative ability to balance the realm of multiple genres.