Using his "file card" technique to create the title piece "Spillane" (whereby musical ideas written on note cards form the basis for discreet sound blocks arranged by way of a unifying theme), John Zorn forges an impressionistic narrative out of stretches of live-music jazz, blues, country, lounge, thrash, etc., and a variety of samples and spoken dialogue inspired by Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer detective novels (recited by John Lurie). Like he did on his Ennio Morricone tribute The Big Gundown, here Zorn blends a disparate array of sound sketches into a pleasing, if not especially determinate or always logical whole. (In his self-penned and expansive liner notes, Zorn says that the text and his overall conceptual take on Mickey Spillane's work form the thematic structure of this piece.) Clarity aside, "Spillane" comes off as an exciting and atmospheric evocation of the clipped prose, seedy dives, and back alleys found in hard-boiled Spillane books like Kiss Me, Deadly. Sticking to the disc's tribute theme, Zorn uses Japanese actor Yujiro Ishihara as the inspiration for "Forbidden Fruit." Working with the Kronos Quartet, turntablist Christian Marclay, and Japanese vocalist Ohta Hiromi, Zorn concocts an exotically frenetic, atonal cut-up piece to evoke the actor's films from the '50s. And bringing things back home, so to speak, Zorn features Texas blues guitarist Albert Collins on the lengthy and slightly abstract blues jam "Two Lane Highway." Helping "The Iceman" out are organist Big John Patton, bassist Melvin Gibbs, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, among others. In addition to these veterans of past Zorn recordings, the likes of keyboard player Anthony Coleman, guitarist Bill Frisell, and drummer Bobby Previte contribute to the Spillane disc as well. Spillane is not only one of the highlights in Zorn's catalog, but also makes for a fine introduction to the composer's vast body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook