Zorn and the make-up of the universe

What makes something blog worthy, is generally wrapped up in the fact that it is new, but this obsession with the ‘new’ is getting tired and although, John Zorn has a new album more often than MF Doom, I don’t think that a new album is what makes Zorn relevant to blog about. The truth is, the man is a rare visionary and shouldn’t require a new album or video or remix on order to be blogged. It was in high school that I started getting into John Coltrane, while I loved Beck, The Roots, DJ Shadow and the Beastie Boys, it was Coltrane that really had this spiritual depth and yearning in his music, something that I somehow identified with. It wasn’t as if he was playing the sax, it was as if the sax was this tool for him to understand the make up of the universe. The power of the music was that Coltrane wanted so badly to be swallowed into this framework that G-d had set out, that the listener felt a part of that yearning. His search, his journey and when he inevitably tapped into something, it was his discovery that pulled the listener in so deeply. In his classic years he was joined by Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and McCoy Tyner (who I met and had sign the cover of A Love Supreme). The quartet was able to reach heights together that the most zenned out solo artists couldn’t.

This brings me to John Zorn, a contemporary who has tapped into this same space. On top of recording and producing hundreds of albums, through his Tzadik label, he has taken the Jewish music art form and placed it into an entirely different context. He took traditional musics and made it avant garde, something that indie obsessed music snobs in Japan and Berlin hunt down, something that college radio DJs play on their free forum jazz shows and not something that is just a functional music where traditional tunes are reserved for traditional functions. In college I was so into Zorn that I started a band based on my obsession with Masada, Zorn’s Jewish Jazz quartet. The band was called Juez and one of the members actually went on to be signed by John Zorn’s Tzadik label with his group, Pitom who will perform at the Shemspeed Winter Fest at South Paw on Feb 10th. Juez was a ‘punk jazz klezmer break beat’ band. Zorn’s band was the closest thing to the classic quartet Coltrane once led and, I guess you could say, Juez was the furthest.

Erez Safar


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