John Zorn

John Zorn’s interest in film music flickers through all his recordings. His latest project seems a soundtrack for a spaghetti western too twisted to be shot, all sauce and corkscrew pasta (reference his 1985 collection of Enrico Morricone movie music The Big Gundown). Varied and accessible like his 2001 release The Gift, the 11 tracks on The Dreamers range from shimmering desert mirages to a Vince Guaraldi-styled keyboard romp. If you’re looking for any one consistent thing you’ve come to the wrong place. Zorn composed and arranged all the numbers here for a septet with names familiar to those who follow his Electric Masada band. The overall effect is more High Plains Drifter than High Noon, all mood and background with little in the way of standout soloing. It’s Marc Ribot’s recording by default. The guitarist’s slightly singed sound dominates most of the tracks, and he’s called upon to supply everything from zing and burn to melancholy romance. Keyboardist Jamie Saft is Ribot’s main foil with vibist Kenny Wolleson chiming in, sometimes at polar opposties. Zorn himself is largely absent; his alto adds roller coaster screams to “Toys” and, we suspect, that breathy, horrific motif on “Anulikwutsayl.” There’s plenty of examples of Zorn’s skill at electrifying Jewish folk themes and interweaving them with other cultural influences. “Nekashim” swirls a geography’s worth of Middle Eastern influences into an intimate, graceful dance. Travel and pursuit emerge as themes with gallops, burning rubber and downshifting. “Mystic Circles” rolls railroad-like, decorated by crossing guard bells and Ribot’s fighter pilot flyover. The collection seems to calm as it progresses and, like a good movie script, finds resolution at end. The album design by Heung-Heung Chin (Chippy) is worth mention, with tunes and credits gauzily reproduced on translucent paper and a sheet of stick-ons of the oh-so-tiny animal characters that grace the cover included for the kiddies. Dream-like? You bet. Released March, 2008. Recommended—Cabbage Rabbit

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