Home Read Classic Album Review: John Zorn | The Big Gundown

Classic Album Review: John Zorn | The Big Gundown

The avant-garde New York jazz sax star revamps a slate of Ennio Morricone gems.

This album came out two decades ago. Here’s what I had to say about it back then (with some minor editing):


John Zorn acolytes, modern-jazz buffs and fans of spaghetti-western composer Ennio Morricone already know this one.

First released back in 1984, The Big Gundown is perhaps one of New York avant-guardian and altoist Zorn’s most famous discs — a slate of Morricone melodies from his dark, cynically humourous soundtracks to Once Upon a Time in the West and others, deconstructed, reconfigured and generally mutated by a gaggle of downtown jazzbos. Despite being 15 years old, this reissue doesn’t show its age — the free-wheeling, post-modern eccentricity of all-star undergrounders like guitarists Bill Frisell, Arto Lindsay, Fred Frith and Vernon Reid, drummer Anton Fier and demonic diva Diamanda Galas sounds just as adventurously weird as ever. In fact, the new Big Gundown may be even cooler: It has six new tracks starring contemporary folk like twangy guitarist Marc Ribot, Cibo Matto singer Miho Hatori and even former Faith No More bellower Mike Patton. All in all, a helluva sequel.