John Zorn's Acoustic Masada The Music Hall, Toronto ON - June 28, 2006

Fans of the iconic saxophonist and composer have waited nine years for Zorn to return to Toronto, so the fact that the doors opened an hour later than scheduled was almost fitting. Once seated, it didn't help the audience's patience to see bassist Greg Cohen cross the stage with a brown-bagged dinner. But rather than acknowledge the delay, Zorn instead immediately ripped into one of the most abrasive numbers of the evening, perhaps as catharsis, perhaps to signal that "Acoustic Masada” doesn’t mean easy listening, or perhaps as an unapologetic reminder that he makes his own rules no matter the circumstances. Clad in god-awful yellow camouflage pants, Zorn is far dorkier in person than you would ever expect, contorting himself while he humps his leg with his saxophone, kisses the mouthpiece and unleashes thwacks and pops in the middle of melodies. Ample space was given to trumpeter Dave Douglas, the youngster of the 50-something quartet, who provided a more traditional counterpart to Zorn's more angular moments. Greg Cohen, best known as Tom Waits’ bassist for 20 years, was given generous solo time while drummer Joey Baron provided delicate colour. The rock slummers in the audience — more than a few of whom were sporting Dillinger Escape Plan shirts — could detect Zorn's influence on protégé Mike Patton, who conducts Fantômas much the same way Zorn commands the occasionally spastic Masada — through hand flourishes and eye contact. For the Jews and jazzbos in the audience, the joy of Masada is hearing Zorn crafting the acidic from the Hasidic, bending klezmer motifs into passages equally gorgeous and grating, but always exhilarating.