Record of the Day: John Zorn, "Electric Masada"

Record of the Day: John Zorn, “Electric Masada”

John Zorn
Electric Masada (Cd Tzadik TZ 5004)

For composer John Zorn's fiftieth birthday, the Tonic club in New York organized an entire month of celebrations, with different concerts every night. However, this range of possibilities was not enough to exhaust the stylistic facets of Zorn's multifaceted personality, but it gave him the possibility of making recordings in the field that documented his skill as a composer, saxophonist, organizer, bandleader, author of soundtracks, performer in duo and so on.

Among the most stimulating projects was the birth of a new group, Electric Masada, which right from its name takes its inspiration from a previous formation (Masada, precisely) with which Zorn had begun a highly original process of mixing Jewish music and free/ radicals. This lineup is much larger than the other and includes two drummers and a percussionist, to which must be added electric bass, sax, guitar and computer-generated sounds.

This greater timbral possibility is fully exploited by Zorn who throws avalanches of pure energy onto the audience using a volume in the room at the limits of physical tolerability (I remember one of their concerts in which the amplification almost made the ears bleed), going well beyond the wall of the noise but never abandoning yourself to chaos; all interventions are under the very rigorous control of Zorn's writing, which while leaving wide improvisational freedom to his companions
strada always maintains a solid formal balance.

Pages born in an acoustic dimension such as “Hath-arob” and “Tekufah” are hit by a charge of thousand volts of tension, transforming into pounding sound murals where the unstoppable percussions of Cyro Baptista stand out (which at times push the rhythm towards South American atmospheres) and Jamie Saft's keyboards, full of echoplex and electric piano sounds that pay clear homage to Zawinul and Corea.

Zorn's instrumental style, already ferocious in its own right, is here pushed towards an even wilder dimension, the vitriolic voice of his alto sax seems to have a lot of fun fighting with the hammer blows of Marc Ribot's distorted guitars (listen to “Idalah -abal”, a truly incredible cross between heavy-metal, free jazz and electronica).

Be careful not to scare the neighbors!

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.