Friday, August 17, 2007

John Zorn - The Big Gundown: The Music of Ennio Morricone

On this intriguing concept album, altoist John Zorn (who also "sings" and plays harpsichord, game calls, piano, and musical saw) utilizes an odd assortment of open-minded avant-garde players (with a couple of ringers) on nine themes originally written for Italian films by Ennio Morricone, plus his own "Tre Nel 5000." These often-radical interpretations (which Morricone endorsed) keep the melodies in mind while getting very adventurous. Among the musicians heard on the colorful and very eccentric set (which utilizes different personnel and instrumentation on each track) are guitarists Bill Frisell and Vernon Reid, percussionist Bobby Previte, keyboardist Anthony Coleman, altoist Tim Berne, pianist Wayne Horvitz, organist Big John Patton, and even Toots Thielemans on harmonica and whistling among many others. There are certainly no dull moments on this often-riotous program.

'The Big Gundown' was released in 1986. In the beginning John Zorn didn't wanted to accept the project,that was suggested to him by producer Yale Evelev, because he thought that Morricone's music was already too perfect in itself. But fortunately, as Morricone was one of Zorn's major influences he couldn't resist the temptation.

Now, John Zorn takes Morricone's music, strips it down to the bone, keeps only the essential and builds it up again, not so much a record of covers as re-incarnations. Zorn appropriates Morricone's music to himself.

The most important factor for Zorn in preparing the project was the choice of musicians: which musician was best to play the sound(s) that Zorn had in mind for each chosen Morricone composition on the record. Each track contains a carefully crafted combination of musicians (from completely different fields of music : Jazz, Blues, Rock, Avant-Garde, Classics) to produce the desired effect. Instead of taking one group and give the whole record an unique sound, Zorn assembles the musicians like a puzzle, not twice the same combination of musicians and not two tracks with the same athmosphere, exactly like Morricone choose different types of music for different films.

The musical width on 'The Big Gundown' ranges from Free Jazz influenced nervrecking guitar sawing like in 'The Big Gundown',' Metamorfosi', 'Once Upon a Time' to erotic soul :'Erotico' with Big John Patton's great organ playing, the Japonese Music influenced 'Giu La Testa', to the delicate 'Poverty' with Toots Thielmans on whistling and harmonica playing. On the Bonus Tracks there is even a possible 'hit single': 'The Ballad of Hank Mc Cain' with Mike Patton on vocals.

A brillant re-interpretation of Morricone classics.

This is the original 1986 version with 10 tracks, I unfortunately don't have the re-issue.

Download it here.
Buy the re-release with 6 bonus tracks here.

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