Naked City (album)

Naked City
Studio album by John Zorn
Released 16 February 1990
Recorded 1989
Genre Avant-garde jazz
Length 55:14
Label Elektra/Nonesuch
Producer John Zorn
John Zorn chronology
Naked City
Torture Garden

Naked City is an album by John Zorn, originally released on Nonesuch Records in 1990.[1] The band which would become known under the same name included Zorn on alto saxophone with Bill Frisell on guitar, Wayne Horvitz on keyboards, Fred Frith on bass and Joey Baron on drums, and was established in 1988 as a "compositional workshop" to test the limitations of a rock band format.[2]

The album was rereleased as part of the box set Naked City: The Complete Studio Recordings on Zorn's Tzadik label in 2005.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Rolling Stone[5]
Guy's Music Review[6]

The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow awarded the album 5 stars stating "The stimulating music rewards repeated listenings by more open-minded listeners".[4]

Jon Pareles observed in The New York Times that "Mr. Zorn doesn't bother with transitions. While he and his musicians create every sudden textural shift themselves, without technological assistance, his guides are the splice, the jump cut, the video edit - not to mention the jack-in-the-box and its more sinister relatives in funhouses and horror movies. In his music, coherence is barely more than propinquity; one sound or style simply doesn't predict the next".[7]

Guy Peters stated "John Zorn’s Naked City-project was about the most far out you could get, and Zorn’s exploration of what he “could come up with given the limitations of the simple sax, guitar, keyboard, bass, drums-format” became the pinnacle of avant coolness... The result was a post-modern hybrid that cut up sequences as he saw fit and treated all genres equally: jazz, grindcore and country & western, were allowed to coexist, even in the same song".[6]

Christopher Thelen noted "While Naked City is certainly groundbreaking, it hardly is for everybody. The faint-hearted will be running for the exits before Zorn and crew can really get warmed up; purists of jazz, rock, and possibly even grindcore might consider the marriage of several styles of music sacrilegious. Possibly. But for the rest of us, Naked City represents unbridled energy, passion and possibly even anger channeled into music. The resulting noise is sheer joy to those who get it, and sheer madness to those who don't".[8]

Pitchfork Media ranked this album at 47 on their Top 100 Albums of the 1980s list.[9] Their review of The Complete Studio Recordings stated "On Naked City, Zorn introduced an amped-up surf/lounge/punk band featuring downtown New York's biggest talents, who blast and din through the 'James Bond' theme song, the theme to Chinatown, and a sound portrait of New Orleans' Latin Quarter-- and then right when they slip into a groove, out of nowhere, the band launches punishing blasts of noise and catastrophe, flaming wreckage that blows up and collapses on a dime".[10]

Track listing

All compositions by John Zorn, unless otherwise noted.
  1. "Batman" – 1:58
  2. "The Sicilian Clan" (Ennio Morricone) – 3:27
  3. "You Will Be Shot" – 1:29
  4. "Latin Quarter" – 4:05
  5. "A Shot in the Dark" (Henry Mancini) – 3:09
  6. "Reanimator" – 1:34
  7. "Snagglepuss" – 2:20
  8. "I Want to Live" (Johnny Mandel) – 2:08
  9. "Lonely Woman" (Ornette Coleman) – 2:38
  10. "Igneous Ejaculation" – 0:20
  11. "Blood Duster" – 0:13
  12. "Hammerhead" – 0:08
  13. "Demon Sanctuary" – 0:38
  14. "Obeah Man" – 0:17
  15. "Ujaku" – 0:27
  16. "Fuck the Facts" – 0:11
  17. "Speedball" – 0:37
  18. "Chinatown" (Jerry Goldsmith) – 4:23
  19. "Punk China Doll" – 3:01
  20. "N.Y. Flat Top Box" – 0:43
  21. "Saigon Pickup" – 4:46
  22. "The James Bond Theme" (John Barry) – 3:02
  23. "Den of Sins" – 1:08
  24. "Contempt" (Georges Delerue) – 2:49
  25. "Graveyard Shift" – 3:25
  26. "Inside Straight" – 4:10




  1. John Zorn|Nonesuch Records
  2. Zorn, J. (1993) liner notes to Zornfest program
  3. Tzadik Catalog, accessed October 22, 2013
  4. 1 2 Jurek, T. Allmusic Review accessed August 2, 2011.
  5. Rolling Stone review
  6. 1 2 Peters, G. Guy's Music Review, accessed October 23, 2013
  7. Pareles, J. There are 8 Million Stories in John Zorn's Naked City, NY Times, April 8, 1990
  8. Yhelen, C. Naked City Daily Vault Album Reviews, August 17, 1998
  9. Pitchfork Top 100 Albums of the 1980s
  10. Dahlen, C. Pitchfork Media Review: Naked City - The Complete Studio Recordings, January 19, 2005
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