John Zorn / Voices in the Wilderness

another washed out supposedly symbolic Tzadik cover

John Zorn
Voices in the Wilderness

Tzadik Radical Jewish Music, TZ7122-2, 2003


Take a theme, a melodic fragment, repeat and improvise. That describes a lot of John Zorn's Massada music to me. When it works, the shard of Middle Eastern or Ashkenazic melody results in something new and transformed. Many of the pieces are perfect for meditation, if only for meditation on what new Jewish music - radical Jewish music - might sound like. And, at times, the melodic fragments and themes seem to exemplify the old Hasidic story about the rabbi, several generations from the Baal Shem Tov, who exclaims, "Lord, I no longer have the spot in the forest, nor the forest, nor the words of the prayer, nor the candle, only the story, and that must suffice." That these do suffice, and often illuminate, helps explain the power of Zorn's music.

If only for the surprising, but obvious discovery that many of these songs stand up well, this double-CD would be worth it. But for the wonderous ways in which these compositions are re-discovered and re-explored by a host of ensembles around the world, this collection becomes essential.

From the meditative change and Middle-Eastern-styled playing of Pharoah's Daughter, through the always illuminating jazz piano of Uri Caine, this is a delight. Also notable are the Zony Mash arrangement of "Tekufah" which becomes a delightfully jazz-rock funky meditation and the very Terkish take intro to Paran by Naftule's Dream, followed by some incredibly inventive explorations, the passionate rendering of "Nevalah" by Satlah, or the vocal harmonies of Jewlia Eisenberg and Charming Hostess on "Abidan" and the gospel-tinged vocal scat on Steven Bernstein's "Shebuah" contrasting with the gently muted cornet. Davka's blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern melodies seems made for "Rochev" and its improvisations, as is the experimental music of the Tin Hat Trio on "Tannaim" or Mephista on "Malkut. There are even some surprisingly interesting cuts by bands that one doesn't normally associated with Tzadik: Rova Saxophone Quartet or Medeski, Martin, and Wood, or even the delightfully big-band experimentalish Peter Apfelbaum. At some point, this becomes an attempt to list the diversity and depth on the CD. That's where it's time to put your own copy on the CD changer and start listening, yourself. If you have ever enjoyed a Tzadik album, or ever enjoyed experimental music, you will be happy you did. Then you'll head back out the store and start exploring the Masada music, Zorn, and these artists in depth.

This tribute only hints at the influence that Zorn and his Masada music have had internationally. The songs continue to be recorded; "Meholalot" is featured, for instance, on the most recent release by the Israeli experimental music band, "Kruzenshtern and Parohod". This set is a wonderful starting point to get a sense of the music, or to enjoy its diversity and diverse interpretation.


    disk one

  1. Karaim, Pharoah's Daughter (arr. Pharoah's Daughter) 4:19
  2. Kisofim, Ben Perowsky Trio (arr. by Ben Perowsky) 6:45
  3. Meholalot, Cracow Klezmer Band (arr. by Jaroslaw Bester) 4:57
  4. Lakom, Rova Saxophone Quartet (arr. by Larry Ochs) 4:19
  5. Tekufah, Zony Mash (arr. by Zony Mash) 6:28
  6. Paran, Naftule's Dream (arr. by Naftule's Dream) 5:10
  7. Khebar, Kramer (arr. by Kramer) 2:20
  8. Nevalah, Satlah (arr. by Daniel Zamir) 3:39
  9. Abidan, Jewlia Eisenberg (arr. by Jewlia Eisenberg) 3:53
  10. Tirzah, Pachora (arr. by Pachora) 5:06
  11. Peliyot, Lemon Juice Quartet (arr. by Lemon Juice Quartet) 5:49
  12. Shebuah, Steven Bernstein (arr. by Steven Bernstein) 8:27
  13. disk two

  14. Ziphim, Medeski Martin and Wood (arr. by MMW) 7:16
  15. Avodah, Rashanim (arr. by Rashanim) 5:32
  16. Rokhev, Davka (arr. by Davka) 3:16
  17. Tannaim, Tin Hat Trio (arr. by Tin Hat Trio) 3:29
  18. Acharei Mot, Peter Apfelbaum (arr. by Peter Apfelbaum) 7:32
  19. Malkut, Mephista (arr. by Mephista) 3:30
  20. Kochot, Mike Patton (arr. by Mike Patton) 3:47
  21. Jair, Ben Goldberg Trio (arr. by Ben Goldberg) 5:22
  22. Ne'eman, The Wollesens (arr. by The Wollesens) 6:54
  23. Tahah, Professionales (arr. by Professionales) 3:35
  24. Tiferet, Jenny Scheinman (arr. by Jenny Scheinman) 5:02
  25. Kedem, Jamie and Vanessa Saft (arr. by Jamie Saft) 7:29

All compositions by John Zorn.

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