Various Artists

Great Jewish Music: Serge Gainsbourg

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The music world has certainly been enriched since composer and saxophonist John Zorn got his consciousness raised about his Jewishness. He subsequently formed a band with the ominous name Masada and established the Tzadik label, which has produced some of the best avant-garde recordings of the last ten years. Tzadik's fledgling Great Jewish Music series promises to be excellent, if this album is any indication. On it various members of the American and British avant-establishment take turns arranging songs by the great French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, with results varying from fairly straightforward (Cibo Matto's surprisingly gentle "Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus" and Ikue Mori's delightful "Pauvre Lola") to bizarrely wonderful (Faith No More frontman Mike Patton's take on "Ford Mustang" and Zorn's own all-vocal "Contact"). Medeski, Martin and Wood contribute a version of "Intoxicated Man" on which Medeski does his best to imitate a woozy French accordion before veering off into the trio's more familiar organic jazz-funk territory; Fred Frith acquits himself nicely on a one-man-band version of "The Ballad of Melody Nelson." All in all, this is a fine and fitting tribute to an underappreciated songwriter.

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