Sam Eastmond: John Zorn’s Bagatelles Vol 16

London-based composer Eastmond arranged eight pieces by NY avant-gardist Zorn for a British band including Emma Rawicz and Charlotte Keefe


British composer and trumpeter Sam Eastmond has worked with John Zorn since 2015, releasing four albums on Tzadik. This relationship has helped him develop his identity both as a composer and as a member of the Jewish community, he says.

Zorn’s Book of Bagatelles consists of no less than 300 original tunes, mostly based on three-line melodies open for interpretation. Eastmond’s new album comprises eight of these pieces, with the leader’s arrangements interpreted by a 12-piece British band.

Eastmond describes “immersing myself in Zorn’s new language . . . adding counterpoints and bass lines, testing limits, extrapolating harmony, letting the tunes tell me how they work”. The results are dramatic and focused – each arrangement has quicksilver changes of moods, textures and instrumental forces.

This is characterful big-band music, with impressive solos by trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe, guitarist Moss Freed and others. Bagatelle 198 is particularly impressive, with its hi-energy rock elements. An impressive achievement.

Bagatelles nos. 256, 78, 143, 63, 2, 198, 74, 101
Collectively, Chris Williams, Asha Parkinson, Emma Rawicz, Mick Foster (s); Noel Langley, Charlotte Keeffe (t); Joel Knee (tb); Tom Briers (tba); Moss Freed (g); Olly Chalk (p); Fergus Quill (b); Alasdair Pennington (d). No date.
Tzadik Records TZ5244