John Zorn and Masada Marathon

Posted by: Dave Douglas on November 9, 2010 @ 8:59 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Events, Uncategorized

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.


  1. Frank Zappa had a pretty broad spectrum of sounds…yet still sounded like Frank.

    Comment by Jeff Kent — November 9, 2010 @ 10:21 am

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  3. I can’t think of an artist that has even created a “B” version of what Zorn has created.

    Comment by Erik Siebert — November 9, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  4. Incredible night! it was a pleasure for me to be there yesterday. amazing concert in milan!

    Comment by Marco Matteo Markidis — November 9, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

  5. One of the best concerts I have been, it was totally amazing been there, great music, Erik friedlander did it so good, like mark Feldman . 4 hours of music. Worth the travel from barcelona just to see the concert.

    Comment by Javier — November 14, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  6. Thanks all. I’ll actually be back at that space in Milano on December 5 with the Bjorkestra, led by Travis Sullivan.

    Teatro Manzoni, Concerto in Apertivo. Looking forward.

    Comment by Dave Douglas — November 24, 2010 @ 7:54 am

  7. Despite I had previously attended some Masada related concerts (so I kinda knew the music about to be played) the multiple tidbits extended formula of the Marathon rendered the whole thing somehow new. I’m glad I was there to see the alternation of the larger ensembles and the smaller chamber-like units. It’s in the shifts between the bands I found the greatest enjoyment and the final overwhelming sound of Electric Masada seemed so an appropriate ending.

    I heard that french actor Mathieu Amalric (the villain in “007, quantum of solace”) was there too and that he’s going to make a new documentary on John Zorn. I hope it will be a Masada retrospective (not because the project is dead already, I don’t really think so) because I think it’s hard to frame Zorn’s kaleidoscopic output in a straight kind of documentary. Maybe concentrating on the Masada project only could result in a “standard” but appreciable clip.

    Or, maybe John Zorn could set up a “Masada Blend” installation, with all the bands playing at the same time:-) It won’t be a problem for you Dave as you are involved in the quartet only. Perhaps Joey Baron and Greg Cohen, or Marc Ribot wouldn’t be able to be in The Dreamers and Bar Kokhba at the same time:-) And I don’t think Zorn won’t mind trying to conduct twelve bands together. Ok, I’m kidding, but I believe that in the appropriate scenery such a John Cage circus would be amazing, uh? 🙂

    Comment by Stefano — December 2, 2010 @ 6:11 am

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