Tuesday, March 14, 2006
John Zorn - The Big Gundown
John Zorn, "The Big Gundown"
John Zorn, "Peur Sur La Ville"
John Zorn, "Battle of Algiers"
John Zorn, "Once Upon A Time In The West"
One of the biggest fans of Ennio Morricone has always been John Zorn, who was championing the man's work decades ago. One of Zorn's finest albums was The Big Gundown, his interpretations of Morricone's music, put together with the finest of the downtown NYC music scene in the early 80s. It's such a natural fit when you think about it, as Zorn has always championed lesser-known geniuses, people who have fallen out of the canon for whatever reasons (Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley, Ornette Coleman, Henry Mancini).
More importantly, Zorn and Morricone share an aesthetic that doesn't care about high or low art, popular or experimental. They are willing to put any parts together, try any instrumentation. You can hear it in both men's use of the electric guitar, rock music's great instrument, and in their willingness to use concrete sounds and noises that add an element of confusion. These similarities are made all the more effective on the album, because Zorn's respect for Morricone never falls into mimicry. Instead, Zorn creates his own music out of the work of Morricone. As the liner notes read, "Zorn never merely embellishes or fleshes out the originals; instead, he engages them in a careening, whiz-bang conversation whose tone is sometimes sportive and mischievous, at other times inquisitive and skeptical, but which always resists condescension and mockery." That's the ultimate tribute, isn't it?
I was told yesterday by MC that I call everything an "amazing document," so I am going to try to avoid using that phrase. Nonetheless, this CD is a must for everyone to listen to, although I have a huge bias for Zorn. This is the album that put Zorn on the map, his first release on a label and a great introduction to Zorn's compositions and recordings of the 80s. I know that he is considered weird and pretentious by most, but I've always thought those characterizations lose weight when you listen to the actual music. Buy the 15th Anniversary remastered edition of The Big Gundown, which comes with 6 bonus tracks from the original recording sessions. The songs above come from the original Nonesuch release, 'cause that's how I roll. O.G.
-If this music catches your ear, you must check out the catalogue for Zorn's very own label, Tzadik. It has something for everyone willing to gamble, from newest stuff out of Japan's noise scene to modern classical works to Zorn's own music. I highly recommend Radical Jewish Culture, Zorn's archival series, film music and the New Japan series.
-Read Zorn's liner notes to Crime and Dissonance, the Morricone compilation on Ipecac Records we discussed yesterday.
-If you wish to find out more about Zorn and the music he's created, or to get recommendations on the best in experimental music, you must join the Zorn listserve. It is a source that provided me with a guide to all sorts of music that I never had any experience with, a nice, painless way to take a leap into the unknown.