John Zorn's Masada

Tonight I’m going to see John Zorn’s jazz quartet called Masada. (Thanks Martin!) They’re playing at Duke University’s Page Auditorium. It’s been a long time since I listened to some Zorn. My favorite was his Naked City stuff. But the guy has recorded TONs of albums that span the spectrum of Jazz. So its hard to listen to it all. I haven’t. So tonight ought to be fresh. Here is tonights shows description:

Ornette Coleman meets Zionism in the acoustic quartet Masada, featuring John Zorn on sax, Dave Douglas on trumpet, Greg Cohen on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. Influential and iconoclastic to the max, Zorn is known for challenging the rules of modern jazz as a composer and writing his own rules as a saxophonist, record producer and club owner. A founding member of the group Naked City, Zorn has written film scores and cartoon soundtracks, and is also considered a master of using the recording studio as a compositional tool, with pieces assembled moment by moment. This is a rare opportunity to hear this group of stellar individual artists and consummate collaborators in a live performance.

I’m a Jazz Fan
Sometime in the 1990’s I was asked by the Jazz Program Manager at WUVT if I wanted to do a morning jazz show. At the time I was doing a two to four AM show so I jumped at the chance to sleep in. At the time I knew nothing about Jazz, but searching and playing records and CDs gave me a excellent education. Because of my interest in making performance art, electronic music, and other abstract music I gravitated towards free jazz and other strange stuff. Of course I appreciated and still love traditionally composed Jazz. Especially piano centered tunes by genius like Art Tatum and Thelonius Monk. I need to get my record player and amp working again.

Somewhere I learned that in order to create something abstract that was “good” you must learn how to build it in a representational style first. Like Picaso who was trained as a classical painter then moved towards abstracting the human face in later paintings. This is a great concept, especially for a freshman painting student, but not a universal law. Untrained artists, known by snobby art historians as ‘outsider artists’, can make abstract and bizarre audio just like anyone else. I suppose the only requirement is that you are human. I think Zorn is in the first category. A talented musical technician who can play like a virtuoso. Yet he chooses to insert other styles of music abstracting the traditional melody and structure of music.

Anyway I had that jazz show and started playing from John Zorn’s Naked City album from the band of the same name. If you haven’t heard it its basically stop start bits of jazz with skronking sax mixed with super fast speed punk layered onto very recognizable melodies like the Peter Gunn theme. Throw in some odd screaming and a healthy dose of noise and well… you get the idea. Needless to say people called me at the station during my show and complained. After that I took perverse pleasure interrupting people’s breakfast with a sudden switch from a relaxing cool jazz to noise punk with horns. Ah youth.

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