Somnambule - Writing About Music

John Zorn ~ Filmworks Anthology 1986-2005

Although he first came to notice to many with his imaginary soundtrack Spillane, John Zorn’s career as a soundtrack composer for real, rather than imaginary, films receives less attention than that of the many ensembles he’s led over the past couple of decades. That’s probably because most of his commissions are a country mile outside the Hollywood mainstream. Thus does an artist hold onto his artistic integrity and, on the evidence of this anthology, thank goodness he does. Having never seen a film blessed with a Zorn accompaniment, I can’t comment on how well he does the job, but it’s difficult not to imagine a certain amount of upstaging in practice. Most of the 28 pieces here feature brilliant arrangements and the sort of textural contrasts that can’t fail but make the ears prick up in a distinctly lupine way. Each track is a jewel, a miniature film in its own right. Special mention must be made of the late, great Robert Quine whose contribution to five tracks is inestimable, and to Tzadik for yet another highly covetable piece of packaging. One word of warning, any budgeting for this single disc may be misleading, there’s a further 16 volumes waiting that you’ll soon want to snare.

Colin Buttimer
October 2005
Published by Jazzwise magazine