John Zorn Marathon at City Opera, 3/30/11
"I've been coming to this theater since I was 14. Used to stand right over there, back when standing room was $1.25 in, what, 1968? Yeah, I saw everything here." - John Zorn
Well, not everything. For that, you would have had to show up at NY City Opera last night, where composer/musician/downtown hero John Zorn hijacked the the State Theater for nearly four hours with a marathon concert led by various groups he's been associated with over the past 20 years. Zorn, whose La Machine de l’être is currently being performed by as part of City Opera's Monodramas, has spent most of his career south of Houston Street, so witnessing him onstage at City Opera - wearing his standard uni of floppy t-shirt and camo pants - was like seeing a three-legged mongrel compete at the Westminster Dog Show. Or something.
Last night's show consisted of excerpts from Zorn's The Book of Angels: a massive tome of over 300 pieces Zorn wrote during a ridiculously prolific three months in 2004. As he put it:
"After 10 years of performing the first Masada book, I thought 'Maybe it'd be nice to write some more tunes' So in the first month, I popped out a hundred tunes; the second month, another hundred; in the third month, a third 100 tunes. I had no idea that was going to happen."
Kicking things off was Zorn's longtime ensemble, the Masada Quartet: with Dave Douglas (trumpet) and Zorn (alto sax) blasting way while Greg Cohen (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) kept them on the ground. Violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier were soft and melodic. Banquet of the Spirits, an electric quintet led by the irrepressible Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, were wild and freewheeling. A cappella vocal quartet Mycale sounded like the children of Meredith Monk, singing a mix of Latin, Hebrew and Arabic music. Medeski, Martin and (Trevor) Dunn - bassist Chris Wood is out on tour with the Wood Brothers - lifted the roof a few inches with their explosive jams. And Bar Kokhba (Marc Ribot, Eric Friedlander, Baptista, Cohen, Baron) played a concerto-of-sorts that vacillated between lounge music and industrial proto-punk.
And that was just the first half.
I would have loved to have heard Uri Caine, the Masada String Trio and, most of all, Electric Masada, but, hey, it's a long way home from uptown on a Wednesday night. As Zorn himself would agree.
More pics on Flickr.