Film Works 1986-1990 opens with John Zorn's first film score, White and Lazy. In just under ten minutes comes small capsules of instrumental punk, rockabilly, dark ambient, nightclub jazz, until "End Title," with vocals by Arto Lindsay, and soloing by Robert Quine (of Lou Reed's band), who Zorn regards as "a punk guitar genius." The other musicians on these first six tracks are bassist Melvin Gibbs, reeds player Ned Rothenberg, harpist Carol Emanuel, keyboardist David Weinstein, and drummer Anton Fier. Next on the CD comes the music for The Golden Boat, a 1990 Raul Ruiz film. To parallel Ruiz' low budget, B-movie work, Zorn decided against timing out the music, and instead generated as much variety as possible -- from pastoral to pipe organ -- in a one day recording session. Zorn, Quine, Emanuel, oboist Vicki Bodner, keys player Anthony Coleman, turntablist David Shea, bassist Mark Dresser, and percussionist Cyro Baptista and Bobby Previte are the participators in this date. Zorn then chopped up the results, applying the discontinuous flow to the film. Certainly, the quirky eclecticism heard here is a telling precursor to later film works such as Film Works, Vol. 7. As a bonus, this volume also includes the 1987 short arrangement of Ennio Morricone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," which was recorded after Zorn was solicited by an advertising agency who had commissioned a reggae band, a string quartet, and a jazz group with the same task. Zorn's arrangement -- with Quine, Weinstein, Emanuel, Previte, organist Wayne Horvitz, Fred Frith on bass, and guitarist Bill Frisell -- was not chosen by the agency. The album then goes back to late 1986, for Sheila McLaughlin's She Must Be Seeing Things' film score, performed by another stellar lineup of: Frisell, Emanuel, Coleman, Horvitz, Weinstein, Previte, Marty Ehrlich, Jim Staley, David Hofstra, and Nana Vasconcelos, with appearances by Zorn and Shelley Hirsch. "Main Title" moves in a driving piano-bass ostinato often heard in Ennio Morricone's work; also, it is almost the exact progression as that later heard in Andy Prieboy's scathing "New York Debut of an L.A. Artist (Jazz Crowd)" (coincidence or reference?). Getting the full last half hour of this release, the music for She Must Be Seeing Things has more space to develop, resulting in the most impressive and fully realized score, found in this first volume of film works. There is a lot of blues and ripping, soulful keyboard work from Coleman and Horvitz that enlighten the whole project. Of historical interest: all of the music here heard here (except the 1990 score), and in Godard and Spillane, was recorded at the late Radio City Studios, site of Thelonious Monk's Riverside recordings, and Albert Ayler's Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe, using some of the same instruments. Although certainly a younger effort, there is a lot of good music on this first film works compilation. It is interesting to hear where Zorn's scores began. And, for what it's worth, this and all of the film works include well laid-out, beautiful liner notes.
FilmWorks: 1986-1990 Review
by Joslyn Layne