John Zorn and Masada Marathon

In a way I wish I had more time to write a piece about this event. Hopefully others will.

This particular Masada Marathon, yesterday at Teatro Manzoni in Milan, Italy, was the biggest one I have ever been involved in. Thirty musicians flew in for the occasion. Twelve different bands each performed three or four discrete pieces from the Masada II, Book of Angels. The show was almost four hours long, with a ten minute (not kidding) intermission.

Here was the sequence:

– Masada Quartet
– Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisie
– Banquet of the Spirits with Shanir Blumenkrantz and Cyro Batista
– Mycale (Basya Schechter, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, Malika Zarra)
– Medeski, Martin, and Wood
– Bar Kokhba


– The Dreamers
– Erik Friedlander Solo
– New Klezmer Trio (Ben Goldberg, Greg Cohen, Kenny Wollesen)
– Bester Quartet (Jaroslaw Bester, Oleg Dyyak, Wojciech Front, Jaroslaw Tyrala)
– Masada String Trio
– Electric Masada

ZornNo overlapping tunes, and every band sounded totally different, both in terms of instrumentation, style, genre, and, maybe most of all, density. Each of these pieces had its own language, sometimes lyrical, hesitant, and poetic, other times stark raging mad, and all points in between. It was a tour de force presentation of John’s vision as a composer, bandleader, saxophonist, musical dreamer, and really, energy source. He was right there from the first note of each rehearsal, right through the sound checks (yup, twelve of them!) as well as playing on the first and last sets of the night. Marc Ribot and I were trying to think of an example of another songwriter who has created such a distinctive sound of their own and managed to present it all under one roof in so many variations, with so many disparate musicians, in so many formats. We came up with a lot of hybrids (x, crossed with y, meets z…), but not too many musicians.

While this music is unique to John’s vision of the Masada book and the many tunes it contains, it was also a perfect representation of music coming from all over the place and uniting as one. I was grateful to be there to play in it and to hear it.