So I was lucky enough to have been able to attend Electric Masada's performance at the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis on February 17th. I have to say that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding musical experiences of my life. Not only was this the first time I was able to see Zorn live, but Marc Ribot, Joey Baron, Cyro Baptista, Ikuo Mori, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wolleson and Jamie Saft are all part of the group. With the exception of Jamie Saft who I was unfamiliar with at the time, each of these musicians have had an impact on my life and music, either as a member of a different group or individually. Ribot being the most obvious as his solo albums and collaborations with artists such as Tom Waites and Elvis Costello see constant play on my iPod. In fact I'm still working on transcriptions of his solos on the Rain Dogs album.
The night commenced with a talk/QA session with Zorn. I have to admit that I would have driven the four hours just for this. Zorn spoke at length about the importance of community in his work. He also discussed the process he uses for his soundtrack work, which was enlightening. He also spoke of the importance of art in our current situation and how artists actually suffer when commercial concerns enter into the picture. It was also humorous to hear his disdain for the "jazz" label.
After the talk we commenced to the theater for Electric Masada's performance. The band started late due to flight delays, etc. To my surprise the theater was set up amphitheater style and we were in the fourth row! This afforded us a great view of the band. In fact Michelle was delighted to be sitting directly in front of Cyro Baptista. Zorn kicked off the first tune and I was immediately enthralled. Then as he started to direct the improvisation I was struck with utter amazement. I was finally witnessing exactly what I'd contemplated and theorized for years. "How does he do this?" was the question on my lips every time I listened to Naked City or Cobra or any number of his improvising groups. The rest of the show kept me in this state of awe as the band proved itself to be inventive and consistently musical (this is something many small improvising groups can't always maintain, much less eight piece groups!). Absolutely incredible.