Saxophonist John Zorn plays Page Auditorium

Oddball. Radical. Weirdo. Genius. They all describe saxophonist, composer and bandleader John Zorn, whose Acoustic Masada performs at Page Auditorium tomorrow night. Zorn, a recipient of a 2006 MacArthur "genius" grant, defies any categorization more specific than the catchall "improviser." Since his first record in 1980, he has played (to name a very few) Japanese S&M-influenced metal, bluesy hard-bop jazz, noise rock, tributes to film music and avant-garde classical.

Zorn has remained a seminal but marginal figure. Many of his disciples, including Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas and Joey Baron have reached wider success in the jazz world. He's also been cited as an influence on bands like Sonic Youth.

Acoustic Masada-and its amplified sibling, Electric Masada-are named after the first century Jewish fortress that was the site of a mass suicide, and celebrates Zorn's Jewish roots through music. Zorn's own label, Tzadik, also releases a series of records featuring music by Jewish composers and another called "Radical Jewish Culture."

Masada features trumpeter Douglas and drummer Baron along with bassist Greg Cohen. Although unplugged, the band is by no means unexciting or unaggressive, blazing through Zorn's modal compositions with abandon and intensity.

"I wanted to have Zorn here because he's one of the most original minds and composers in music today," said Kathy Silbiger, director of Duke Performances, which booked the concert. She said she was blown away by Zorn's appearance at Duke 10 years ago.

"I think some people will be perplexed [by Friday's performance]-it's certainly not mainstream jazz," Silbiger said. "But if they're willing to give it a shot and go with it, I think they'll have a mind-blowing experience."

John Zorn's Acoustic Masada performs at Page Auditorium Friday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, $26 general admission. See for more information.


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