John Zorn: Carny

"Mr. Kigawa brought all the precision and finesse you could want to John Zorn’s 'Carny,' a Frankenstein’s monster of fleeting quotations, distortions and allusions, bolted together in the manner and spirit of a vintage Looney Tunes soundtrack. Moody murmurings shift without warning into booming avalanches or cocktail-bar vamping. Wagner’s 'Tristan' chord materializes abruptly, like the Mona Lisa spotted on a video-arcade wall. Here, every detail was in place." - Steve Smith, The New York Times

"Mr Kigawa lives in New York, but grew up in Japan and studied piano both in Tokyo and at Juilliard. He is unassuming, almost reserved, at the piano, which is part of why many of the sounds in John Zorn’s Carny were surprising and at times even comical. The program was mysteriously blank beneath this work title, while the other three works had neat little paragraphs beneath them. But Mr Kigawa explained that this was purposeful: he had called John Zorn to ask for program notes, which were denied in favor of letting the music “speak for itself”. The music, rambling from watery melodies to jazzy phrases to almost mocking mini-cadences that rippled outward into chaos, seemed to be speaking in many languages. Mr Zorn, who turns 60 this year, successfully amalgamates a variety of genres into his works, including jazz, pop, rock, metal, classical, and klezmer. Even Carny, a solo piano work, contained a little of everything. The notes collided in clever, interesting ways, one voice roving beneath recurring snippets, the two voices at times stumbling like toddlers on to the next section. At one point both hands interrupted themselves as Mr Kigawa slammed his arms onto the keyboard for a bit of a refreshing tone cluster, and the ending was quiet, almost fluttery." - Rebecca Lentjes, Bachtrack

"Like a number of his other postmodern concoctions, 'Carny' by John Zorn (a composer improviser who turns sixty this week) is well-stocked with quotations. Placed amid forceful cascades of clusters and dissonant arpeggiations, they frequently supply comic relief in the midst of an otherwise daunting musical surface, often verging on violence. In another leavening gesture, cocktail music and jazz collide with the aforementioned hypermodern punctiliousness. This invites the performer to act as a kind of raconteur; an extravagance Kigawa eschewed. Instead the pianist served as the music’s straight man, never playing it for yuks, letting the bizarre emergence of a pileup of quotes from Mozart, Chopin, Bartók, Boulez, Stockhausen, and the Tristan chord (and many more), one after another, speak for themselves. Ives’s Concord Sonata, a clear touchstone for Carny, was pillaged as well: perhaps serving as a hat tip from the composer. And Elliott Carter’s Night Fantasies, another work with diverse (though self-contained) reference points, which was heard later in the evening, was also prominently quoted. I liked Kigawa’s approach; although it lacked a bit of zaniness, it brought out the collage aspect of Zorn’s compositional process." - Christian Carey