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John Zorn Introduces His Third Book of Masada Compositions

Heavy volume in NYC

John Medeski (left) and Jim Black at NYC's Town Hall in March 2014

Now 60, composer and saxophonist John Zorn is the creator and curator of a specific yet far-reaching strain of the musical avant-garde-his own genre, his own nation. He transcended comparisons to other improvising musicians long ago: Far better to draw lines from the quintessential Downtowner to, say, filmmakers Robert Altman and John Cassavetes, in his repeated use of a trusted, versatile troupe of his design. Or to Baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, for his laughably prolific output. Or to any number of artists who’ve expanded the parameters and function of ethnic tradition.

Those facets and more were laid out on March 19 at New York’s Town Hall, where Zorn premiered the first 20 compositions from his third Masada songbook, titled The Book Beriah. The nearly three-hour-long program, part of Town Hall’s Newish Jewish Music Festival, acted as an entrée into the Zorn universe as it exists in 2014-a primer on its current characters and the composer’s recent predilections.

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