John Zorn Credit: Scott Irvine

In recent years the sprawling variety and prolificacy of works by musician, composer, and community force John Zorn have been showcased in appropriately ambitious, multiconcert marathon events presented all around the world with enormous casts of musicians. Last month I experienced one of the largest such efforts when Jazz em Agosto, in Lisbon, Portugal, turned over its entire ten-day lineup to Zorn’s music and artists from deep within his circle such as Ikue Mori and Robert Dick. But I have to say I think the modest iteration of that format happening this Sunday at the Art Institute of Chicago seems more illustrative of his compositional heft—and it also seems like a more manageable and logical program. A superb cast of musicians will perform in a dozen pieces by Zorn that tilt toward rigorous notation. Each of the 12 will be played by a different ensemble in relation to specific works of art located in across 12 areas of museum at 30-minute intervals. “Freud,” a jagged 2016 work that features violinist Chris Otto and cellists Jay Campbell and Michael Nicolas shaping a landscape of visceral pizzicato, stinging bowing, and brooding melodies, will be heard amid works by surrealist Salvador Dalí, while an hour later the high-velocity, relentlessly driving “Naked Lunch”—a spacious jazz-inflected suite of prog-rock intensity—will be performed by vibist Sae Hashimoto, bassist Shanir Blumenkranz, and drummer Kenny Wollesen in the presence of artwork by Andy Warhol. Guitarists Gyan Riley and Julian Lage will play selections from last year’s luminous Midsummer Moons (Tzadik), a gorgeously melodic set of pieces inspired by lunar imagery, in response to works by Pablo Picasso, and Zorn himself will improvise on alto saxophone with Wollesen in response to works by Jackson Pollock. Other participating musicians include guitarist Bill Frisell,  the JACK Quartet, American Brass Quintet, and a superb quintet of female singers tackling Zorn’s 2005 composition “Frammenti del Sapho.”   v