The John Zorn Experience

The John Zorn Experience

John Zorn is a thing of beauty. I mean, you know, John Zorn is an extraordinary person. He has taken the sax to unknown and immeasurable heights. Sun Ra would probably approve.He has taken it all over the world. You can read all about him in Wikipedia. He has over the years had a number of different bands, probably at least two or three at the same time doing different music. Masada, the music of which is based in the Jewish shtetls of pre-World War II Eastern Europe; Naked City, a “punk” band; Pain Killer, described in Wikipedia “…as a mix of avant-garde Jazz and grindcore (whatever that is) ; Hemophiliac, an experimental music group.

John Zorn is a player, a composer, a record producer through his Tzadik label.

Although labels and genres are misleading, he is considered to be part of the avant-garde “Downtown New York New Music” scene. He is primarily a Jazz saxophonist.

So, with that wee introduction, I can recount that I got a video from Netflix, “John Zorn: Masada Live at Tonic 1999”. This was, for a bit over an hour, the John Zorn Experience In The Safety Of My Own Home. Masada was in 1999, John Zorn, sax, Joey Baron drums, Greg Cohen double bass, and the very competent Dave Douglas, trumpet. Hey they are all very competent. I think that the bass gets lost in a lot of the music, but Mr Cohen also has some longish solos in which to show his talents. If I were to compare Masada with any other group, which I am not competent to do, it would be Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio. This is in the sense that the basic “standard” in both cases is used as a reference frame off of which to improvise and embellish. It is just that Masada’s frame of reference is a shtetl somewhere in Poland, Odessa, Lithuania, Russia, the Ukraine.

John ZXorn Masada Live at Tonic

The first thing Zorn does as the film opens is to fix down parts of his totally tarnished sax with rubber bands. He has long hair, which is gone today. He wears fatigue pants, which he still does today. He is wearing tzit-tzit (pronounced tsis-tsis among Ashkenazic Jews, or as it is spelled among Sephardic Jews). These are a rule of Torah law (Numbers 15:37-41) for observant Jews. I could find nothing about Zorn’s personal life, so I do not know if he is in fact an observant Jew.

Wikipedia says that the band Masada is based in Klezmer music. I do not think so. There are no clarinets, as in Klezmer. The clarinet replaced the violin as the lead instrument maybe already in the mid-nineteenth century. So, maybe Zorn is replacing the clarinet with the sax. I said above that I felt Masada’s music to be based in the shtetl experience. Not all shtetl music qualifies as Klezmer.

I highly recommend this video.

At Netflix, one can also find videos of Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker, probably many more, I just do not have time. The footage is probably uneven, but, hey many of these guys who still bring so much pleasure are no longer with us.