John Zorn

FilmWorks XXVII: Notes on Marie Menken/Ray Bandar: A Life with Skulls

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Fortunately for listeners anyway, John Zorn's Film Works titles are a lot easier to come by than the films themselves. The 17th volume in Zorn's ever-growing Film Works collection features two scores: the first is for Martina Kudlácek's Notes on Marie Menken, and the second is for Beth Cataldo's documentary Ray Bandar: A Life with Skulls. But this is no ordinary volume in the Film Works series. For starters, the Marie Menken soundtrack is longer, with almost twice as many cues. Zorn's solution, rather than juxtapose them, is to combine them aesthetically. The longer score features guitarist Jon Madof and bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz -- from the band Rashanim -- as well as drummer Kenny Wollesen and Zorn on various instruments. The Ray Bandar score is all percussion; it features Zorn and Cyro Baptista with Wollesen guesting on one cue. Zorn's interweaving creates a seamless album instead of a patchwork one. The solo classical guitar that introduces the Menken theme is understated enough and gives way to a hypnotic rhythmic chant on "Skull I," from Bandar. So far so good, but when the arid snaky surf guitar introduces "Glimpses" and flows straightaway into the utterly dreamy "Mood Mondrian," the listener can not only hear but feel Zorn's accomplishment. "Skull II" is more elegiac but no less enchanting in its nocturnal repetition. The record explodes with "GoGoGo," a full-on free jazz trio workout with Zorn's wailing alto leading the charge. The calm is shattered, but delightfully so, and is restored in the shimmering "Moonplay," from Menken. And on it goes through a whirling, dizzying, surreal journey in adventure, exotica, and interior travel. Highly recommended.

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