Search - John Zorn :: Spillane

John Zorn
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (4) - Disc #1

Before John Zorn broke with the Nonesuch label to form his own record companies, he recorded a series of excellent titles there, of which Spillane may be the best. The title cut temporarily removes the moratorium on the us...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: John Zorn
Title: Spillane
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Nonesuch
Original Release Date: 12/2/1987
Re-Release Date: 7/1/1991
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Classical
Styles: Avant Garde & Free Jazz, Historical Periods, Modern, 20th, & 21st Century
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPCs: 075597917222, 075597917215, 075597917246, 603497099269

Before John Zorn broke with the Nonesuch label to form his own record companies, he recorded a series of excellent titles there, of which Spillane may be the best. The title cut temporarily removes the moratorium on the use of the phrase tour de force; it splices dozens of brief musical motifs to tell a plotless tale of haunting, affectionately tongue-in-cheek film-noir pastiche. "Forbidden Fruit" is a deeply intricate, speed-induced collaboration with Kronos Quartet, which includes Japanese vocalist Ohta Hiromi and turntablist Christian Marclay. And "Two-Lane Highway," the track that makes this album a true must-have, is a kind of blues concerto written for guitarist Albert Collins, who is prodded willingly through a selection of tight settings, matched riff for riff by Robert Quine's heavily echoed six-string, and supported by, among others, dual drummers Ronald Shannon Jackson and Bobby Previte and organist Big John Patton. --Marc Weidenbaum

CD Reviews

Three extended works.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 03/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Spillane" is an illustration of John Zorn's "file card" compositional technique-- the notion is really quite simple, Zorn immersed himself in a subject matter and produces snippets of music, arranged on index cards (as a matter of convenience originally) and then recorded as snippets that were then juxtaposed together. The extended work featured on this album ("Spillane") is backed by two further pieces-- a study in guitarist Albert Collins that is more a series of movements design to serve as a springboard for him ("Two Lane Highway") and a string quartet, turntable and voice piece composed in tribute to Japanese film star Ishihara Yujiro ("Forbidden Fruit").

It should be noted that Zorn's two extended, early file card compositions have been assembled remastered as and released as "Godard/Spillane" (titled after the two extended works) with a third file card composition. In the case of both albums, the material other than "Spillane" is not available elsewhere, so both are worthwhile purchases and both have value.

"Spillane" is a reflection on the work of Mickey Spillane and the Mike Hammer novels. Zorn takes the noir atmosphere painted by the novels and the music juxtaposes through various passages, from ambient scapes (often featuring narrations by John Lurie and/or Robert Quine) to frantic guitar workouts (featuring Bill Frisell), loungey jazz (cocktail piano from Anthony Coleman) and r&b (check Zorn's alto blowing on the faux-"Night Train" motif towards the beginning of the piece). The net result is a constantly shifting backdrop over which some fine performances are turned by pretty much everyone-- it's like "Torture Garden", only slower, more relaxed, and with more patient development and thematic unity. A lot of people find this to be among Zorn's most powerful work-- I actually find that while it works nicely as an extended and narrative piece, and it certainly sets an atmosphere as well as (if not better) anything else out there, it lacks some of the real immediacy and impact of Zorn's greatest works.

"Two Lane Highway" is quite a different piece-- written as a presentation for Albert Collins-- Zorn utilizes a set of his regulars (guitarist Robert Quine, pianist Wayne Horvitz and drummer Bobby Previte) along with a handful of jazz luminaries (organist Big John Patton, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and bassist Melvin Gibbs) to whip up an avant-blues stew within and over which Collins could work his magic. Zorn again had immersed himself in the subject matter, and his composition shows a remarkable inclination to meet the artist halfway-- while it is not exactly a straight blues per se, it is about as on-center as anything Zorn has ever done as it musically paints the picture of Collins travelling through Texas. It also, by the way, proves to be as exciting as anything too-- Collins seems to take nicely to the environment as soloist and the backing band is about as good as they get, whipping together a funky, bluesy stew over an extended (over 18 minutes) piece that feels like it ends too quickly.

In many ways, the closer "Forbidden Fruit" paints the path for zorn's work in the last decade or so-- the Kronos Quartet, augmented by turntablist Christian Marclay and vocalist Ohta Hiromi, perform a piece that in feel and sound very similar to "The String Quartets"-- frantic energy passages that find the strings exploding against each other (and occasionally Marclay providing a completely unpredictable element) interchange with long tone arco playing creating a platform for Hiromi's largely spoken vocal. All in all, the piece ends up being not quite as satisfying as Zorn's then not-yet-written string works, but it is an intriguing and reasonably interesting listen.

One really nice thing is a set of detailed liner notes drawn from interview with Zorn-- it paints a nice picture of the composer now nearly twenty years ago.

"Spillane" is, however, overall a rewarding listen, and it may be one of the more viable entry points into Zorn's catalog. While I feel many other of his works are both superior and as or nearly as accessible ("Naked City", "Kristaalnacht" and virtually anything by Masada all spring immediately to mind), this one is a worthwhile pickup. Recommended."
One of my Favorite Albums of all time, defintely on my DiD
Carlo Carlo | Marinduque, Philippines | 12/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"DiD- Desert Island Discs
Never before have i come a across such a unique album that moves in three different musical directions. The first title track is like a long movie trailer for a Mike Hammer movie, except with all the visuals taken out--truly a surreal experience. the second track, Two-Lane Highway, divided into two parts is a brillant blues-odyssey-through-Texas track starring the great Albert Collins, not only does it feature his brilliant guitar playing, but humor, too. the last track is my favorite, Forbidden Fruit, which has a Japanese woman speaking over the Kronos Quartet's moving strings and Christian Marclay scratching string records. John Zorn is a true original and listening to Spillane feels like listening to a radio with the station always changing. sure, the tracks are long, but if you can't sit through one section of any of these songs, you should have yourself treated for A.D.D. Zorn is famous for saying "if you don't like my music, wait a few seconds 'cause you don't know which direction my music is heading next".
also included in the liner notes is a brilliant interview with John Zorn in which he explains his methods in detail and the lyrics to Spillane and Forbidden Fruit, both in English and Japanese and to top that off, Pictures of the People who inspired the tracks. What more could you ask for?"
Three Remarkable Pieces
Carlo Carlo | 05/19/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Three compostions by John Zorn and co. The first, "Spillane," is an homage to the pulp writer narrated by John Lurie and punctuated with cheap, lurid, brilliant jazz. The second, "Two-Lane Highway," features the guitar of Allbert Collins and smokes the difference between jazz and blues. The final piece, "Forbidden Fruit," is a noisy, celebratory collaboration with the Kronos Quartet that stretches the mindspace a bit. Highly recommended."