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Pic of the Week: from Almeida to Zorn Edition

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Portrait of Laurindo Almeida, Richmond, Va.(?), 1947 or 1948. Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

September 2 marks the birthdays of two very different musician/ composers whose works grace the Music Division’s storied vaults. Classical guitarist Laurindo Almeida was born on this day in 1917.  His career ran the gamut from Sao Paulo radio to Hollywood session man, and he worked with a range of artists from Villa-Lobos and Carmen Miranda to Stan Kenton and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Almeida’s scores include a 1962 Twilight Zone episode, and his guitar has been heard on countless other film and television soundtracks. The Music Division houses the Laurindo Almeida Collection, which includes music scores, sound recordings, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, contracts and other documents of his long career.  Almeida died in 1997.

Today also marks the birthday of versatile musician/composer John Zorn, born in 1953.  Zorn’s myriad projects are the very definition of post-modern, as he absorbs and reinvents diverse influences from Blue Note house pianist/composer Sonny Clark (in the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet and News for Lulu recordings), to soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone (The Big Gundown, 1986), to French singer Serge Gainsbourg (one of the artists  - Burt Bacharach was another – to whom Zorn paid tribute  in his Great Jewish Music series) .  Zorn’s own music runs an unpredictable course from the violent noise of Naked City; “game pieces” like Archery and Cobra; to his improvisational approach to traditional Jewish music, Masada.  It was under the auspices of the last that the Music Division commissioned a work by Zorn, a violin and piano duo performed when the Masada String Trio appeared at the Coolidge Auditorium in April 1999.  Zorn’s music returned to the Coolidge stage last year, when the Afiara String Quartet performed the Zorn composition “Cat o’nine tails.”  John Zorn’s  music may not be for all tastes, but Zorn’s voracious musical taste embraces something for everyone.



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