Last week, renowned composer/musician John Zorn premiered a third series of his popular Masada compositions, entitled "The Book of Beriah." He announced that there would be a total of 92 pieces in the Book of Beriah, each one to be played by a different ensemble. The premiere concert, held at Town Hall in New York City, featured no less than twenty different bands playing twenty different pieces. Musical styles were - in typical Zorn fashion - all over the map, including jazz, metal, classical, klezmer, rock and a host of experimental sounds.
It's impossible to fully review twenty different bands in a short review, but there were some notable highlights. Eyvind Kang's string-heavy octet was my personal favorite of the night, a very beautiful and melodic piece which featured Frank London on trumpet. Another highlight was vocalist Sofia Rei's duet with saz bass player Jean-Christophe Maillard, who brought us a lovely exotic piece with a sparse arrangement that perfectly framed her voice. The most fun band of the night was undoubtedly Zion80, Jon Madof's Afrobeat-influenced big band, who lightened the mood before the intermission.
The Merkaba Quartet, comprised of a string trio plus Marc Ribot on electric guitar, was another one of my favorites - it reminded me a lot of Bar Kokhba, with a sort of slinky, laid-back-yet-energizing sound. Mephisto (which was the band Mephista, but with a substitute drummer) was one of the more experimental/avant groups of the night, with Ikue Mori's fascinating electronics and Sylvie Courvoisier's dramatic piano keeping me captivated throughout.
Cleric, a Philadelphia-based band on Mimicry Records, were probably the most polarizing band that we heard; fans of heavier music absolutely loved them, while people less appreciative of that scene were rather taken aback by their aggressive sound. Secret Chiefs 3, one of their Mimicry labelmates, capped off the night with a fantastic and energetic finale, leaving us with our heads spinning and wondering about what the next installment of the Book of Beriah will hold. After a three-hour concert of almost unbelievable diversity, it's hard to imagine what could come next!