The joyful Jewish jazzman

We do so love it when a nice Jewish boy finds his roots. That’s the case with John Zorn, who lived up to his name (Zorn is German for anger) by belting out the angriest tunes of the 1980s. Then the composer and saxophonist found Judaism, or rather rediscovered his Jewish roots. “He found a paradoxical sense of belonging and community in this realization, decided to celebrate it in his music, and thus was born the band he called Masada—named after the mountain-fortress where a group of 1st-century Jewish rebels committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman conquerors.”

He’s happier now, not the least bit suicidal, and celebrating the 10th anniversary with some of the best joyful jazz you’ll find anywhere. We’re not musical types, but we’ve learned there are two “Jewish scales” (a major scale with the second note flat or a minor scale with the fourth note sharp — if you say so) and all the songs composed for Masada have followed one simple rule. They have to be composed in one of these two scales. Today he leads up a slew of ensembles, including one called Bar Kokhba. The guy has a serious fetish with suicidal Jews, but we say whatever makes you happy man. Keep up all that jazz.

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