Tzadik's 50th Birthday Celebration Vol. 2 & 7

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The avant-savvy marketing of Tzadik came to a head with the 10th anniversary of Masada coming on the 50th birthday of the band's leader (the band premiered as the Thieves Quartet during John Zorn's 40th birthday monthlong love-in at the old Knitting Factory). Special series of CDs have marked each anniversary, all coming to a head when the ten-year-old came to the fifty-year-old's party. It's a sort of hypercelebration, putting a benchmark on a band that Zorn has fronted for going on twice as long as his previous supergroup, Naked City. But Zorn has gone on record saying a) that he wanted to create a songbook like Monk had that could be played by a variety of bands and b) that the "classic quartet" is just too fun to quit. The man recently has been composing new themes for the group, so don't expect an end anytime soon.

In the meantime, it's up to the consumer how completist to be. The Masada quartet released ten CDs on DIW and five more live discs on Tzadik. There are the string trio and chamber versions, a pair of "tribute" discs and a setting of the themes for Sylvie Courvoisier's piano and Mark Feldman's violin. It's unlikely that any new release won't find an audience.

50th Birthday Celebration Volume Seven

The birthday version of the live version of the quartet version of the Masada epic is certainly strong. How could it not be? The group's about as good as it gets and with drummer Joey Baron having left New York, it is less frequent. "Sippur" shines in a scant four minutes. "Piram" lasts a glorious dozen. "Hath-Arob" is blisteringly broken and bifurcated. But it might be a safe guess that reviews aside, Vol. 7 's buyers are determined just by its existence. If you want more Masada, it's there and it delivers.

John Zorn/Milford Graves
50th Birthday Celebration Volume Two

The Zorn/Graves duo, recorded ten nights earlier during the monthlong Tonic party, is less common a document. Zorn has played duos with the free jazz drumming titan several times in the past, but this is the first one committed to plastic. It catches both at their burning best in just over 50 minutes of playing and includes an impromptu lecture on the meaning, or meaningless, of the term "avant-garde" by Mr. Graves. What you don't get by not being there is the point of the laughter at the end, when Graves picks Zorn up on his shoulders for a final solo. It's a great record (and, as on the Masada, beautifully recorded by Daniel Goldaracena), but likely will elicit a "whad I miss?" in many listeners. With Tzadik having recently moved into the DVD market, it would have been nice to have the releases captured on video. But then maybe that gives us something to look forward to in 2013.

50th Birthday Celebration Volume Seven

Tracks: 1. Karaim; 2. Hath-Arob; 3. Sippur; 4. Acharei Mot; 5. Kedushah; 6. Ravayah; 7. Piriam; 8. Ashnah.
Personnel: Joey Baron: Drums; Greg Cohen: Bass; Dave Douglas: Trumpet; John Zorn: Alto Saxophone.

50th Birthday Celebration Volume Two

Tracks: 1. Inserted Space; 2. Looping Journeys; 3. Calling in Proceed; 4. Deep Within; 5. Smooth Interaction; 6. Talk; 7. Synchronicity.
Personnel: Milford Graves: Percussion; John Zorn: Alto Saxophone.

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