Rimbaud is a fascinating collection of four stylistically diverse, wildly imaginative, mostly manic pieces by John Zorn, all inspired by the 19th century French Symbolist poet. Zorn takes the meaning of eclectic to a new dimension, but his individual albums are generally more stylistically consistent, so it's intriguing to hear such a wide aesthetic spectrum on one release, a testimony to the breadth of his compositional vision and mastery. "Bateau Ivre," for a standard "Pierrot ensemble" plus percussion, might almost be mistaken for a product of the modernist academic scene of the 1960s, but Zorn's quirky, madcap imagination keeps it constantly engaging. It's a virtuoso tour de force for its seven players and Talea Ensemble, led by Brad Lubman, plays it with a wit and dazzling lightness that capture its soaring, spiraling momentum. "A Season in Hell" features the composer and Ikue Mori using laptop, samples, and electronics to colorfully evoke the dark, hallucinogenic chaos of the poem in an idiom characteristic of Zorn's noise-related pieces. "Illuminations for jazz trio" (Stephen Gosling, piano; Trevor Dunn, bass; Kenny Wollesen, drums) is a high-energy example of the composer's manic avant-garde jazz. "Conneries," a piece whose structure is derived from the shuffling file cards of musical ideas, features actor and director Mathieu Amalric reciting, howling, and shrieking a Rimbaud text, underlaid by Zorn's collage-like accompaniment on alto sax, piano, organ, guitar, drums, and foley effects. The album is a non-negotiable must-have for the composer's fans and offers a suggestion of his terrific versatility for anyone interested in sampling his work.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins