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John Zorn Electric & Eclectic

The headline concert of the festival, a double bill by John Zorn featuring his bands, The Dreamers and Electric Masada. John Zorn’s role in the Dreamers was primarily as conductor, although he played alto saxophone on a couple of numbers. The Dreamers is comprised of Marc Ribot (guitar), Jamie Saft (piano), Kenny Wollesen (vibes), Trevor Dunn (bass), Cyro Baptista (percussion) and Joey Barron (drums).

The show started with a tune that featured the guitar playing of Ribot sounding very similar to a Hawaiian guitar, a slide tone. Ribot plays an arch top, he plays the single note melody with a pick. Zorn sits in a chair back to the audience legs crossed, saxophone at his side, he appears relaxed and seems to be enjoying the vibe. He makes an occasional gesture with his hand that seems to indicate a change in the dynamic, an accent here, a crescendo there, slight changes to the timbre of the music. The third number in, had the band near swinging to a bouncy tune, the drummer Barron utilizing brushes, the keyboard player is in sync with the vibe player creating a dual vibe like tone. The bassist takes a solo and creates a nice interlude. During the fourth number the vibist plays with a bow, stroking the keys and generates feedback like tones that sustain while the guitarist produces rock chords over a bass line that marches a death toll while the percussionist produces wind whistles through trees and wood block knocking with cymbal bells of alarm as a storm rages against time. This is the sound that may be associated with a person who has experience a very dark dream. There are moments of perfect clarity, structure and reason, well thought out patterns - catchy rhythms and a solid melody that transgresses into a wild sounding maelstrom of high frequency energy.

Song no. 5, Zorn has the alto out, the band kicks in. High energy drumming from Barron, he is flying out of the gate with a free style form - very cool. Zorn seems troubled, he stops about eight bars in and announces, "Joey has the wrong chart out!" Joey, "I’m sooo sorry." Mr. Barron organizes his charts, Zorn counts them in with an arm movement, someone in the audience yells take two, and the band kicks into the song for the second time. A very complex tune for the vibes and the sax, the band is smokin’ the error on the intro is forgiven, the audience is extremely pleased judging by the extended applause at the end of the tune.

The Dreamers played eight songs, mostly in a high energy, rock inspired, jazz motivated, musically challenging manner that delighted the enthusiastic audience most of whom departed during the intermission or end of Act I with a very discernible buzz of energy.

Act II Electric Masada

To the line up for The Dreamers, Electric Masada adds a second drummer, Kenny Wollesen, as well as an electronics expert, Ikue Mori. The first song started as a big band closer, the crescendo for the ending of a song became the beginning. A long ending that veered into a screaming blast of altoist energy, the bridge that takes the song on another path. A Masmoudi type of Middle Eastern melody emerges with a keyboard solo taking over. The focus however is more about the melody, the keyboard solo is almost background chatter. The rhythm section is solid, maintaining a grounded feel. Bongos take a few bars of dumbek like rhythms, the electronics are creating pulsations - a wild mesmerizing effect, a lot of action is taking place. The song transforms into a smooth sounding tune with glowing alto saxophone by John Zorn. He is playing classic melodies, a hybrid of many bop inspired alto players. Smooth as honey he climbs a pattern of tonal bubbles, rising to the heavens, excitement builds, the audience feeds off of this and applause erupts. The band is united, the sound is a blended glorified mix of world rhythms that comes off in high drama. An exciting performance that pleases many senses, the rhythms evoke emotions that run the gamut.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Zorn The Dreamers, Electric Masada
  • Concert Date: 9/7/2008
  • Subtitle: 15th Guelph Jazz Festival
  • Venue: The River Run Centre
  • City State Country: Guelph, On., Canada
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