Recording information: Frank Booth, Brooklyn, NY (10/2004).
Director: Marc Levin .
Arranger: John Zorn .
The 15th volume in John Zorn's Film Works series is the soundtrack to director Marc Levin's Protocols of Zion, a documentary about anti-Semitism in the wake of 9/11. Unlike some of the other volumes in this series, Zorn performs here -- on electric pianos, with master percussionist Cyro Baptista and bassist and oud player Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz. In his liner notes, Zorn speaks of somewhat formal compositional procedures in relating to the images on the screen. The end result, however, is anything but. The music found here unfolds in a set of elliptical yet very accessible grooves. One can hear traces of various folk music forms from Hasidic cantorials to Yiddish songs to pop and soul-jazz forms winding their way through this engaging and often hypnotic mix. One can hear trace of Joe Zawinul's early Weather Report improvising in the phraseology of the title track as it engages sacred song. On "Mystery of the Jew," sparse keyboard lines unwrap themselves slowly around a subtle yet labyrinthine melody line that asks as many questions as it answers. On "Arab and Jew," the rhythmic influences of Latin jazz and Charles Mingus entwine as they encounter full-on Middle Eastern music of antiquity in Blumenkranz's bass and oud playing. The mournful piano lines that introduce "Fighting Time" are a paean not only to conflict but loss, as the theme gives way to a sparsely articulated melodic frame that uses space and then rhythm to trace figures of Yiddish folk and even klezmer before digging into a slippery, subtle, and mutant form of nocturnal funkiness. In all, this is a provocative record for all the ease of listening it affords. It's a John Zorn who is not heard nearly often enough. This music is adventurous but contains no edges; it is deeply emotional, wonderfully warm, and utterly engaging. ~ Thom Jurek