John Zorn: Zhakor

28 Sep

Zhakor means to remember, and John Zorn’s song of the same name is one — of the many pieces he has composed and/or played — to remember him by. The link above is a hauntingly beautiful guitar and voice piece.

Otherwise, Zorn, who’s done a lot of interviews for someone who has the reputation of not liking to do interviews, might best be remembered for Stephen Colbert’s reaction to Zorn’s winning a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2006.

Colbert, in his Who’s Not Honoring Me Now segment, noted Zorn’s grant, and derisvely read from a paper: “John Zorn . . . an avant garde jazz musician.” Then Colbert, with top hat and cane, mocked the muted sounds of Zorn’s saxophone and said, “I wonder how your little genius came up with that toe-tapper.”

“Genius grant, please.”

Of course, Zorn isn’t Barry Manilow; don’t expect him to come on Colbert’s show and make nice — either by sounds or music. But not because Zorn holds a grudge.

Zorn’s reaction was a lot mellower to Colbert than it often is to interviewers (“Mr. Zorn said that every time he had opened the door to the press, his words had been used to hurt him,” said Jazziz editor Larry Blumenfeld in a 1999 letter to the New York Times).

“Yeah, that was hilarious,” Zorn said of Colbert in an interview with

Would Zorn go on The Colbert Report the interviewer followed up?

“I have no idea.,” Zorn said. “I don’t know the man. It was a hilarious spot. I don’t know what his commitments are to this kind of music or what would happen. TV is not something I’m really interested in. I don’t own one, I don’t look at it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I’m not going to put myself in the position of ridicule on some comedy show. I wouldn’t even go on any of these late-night talk shows. That’s not what I’m doing here. It really has nothing to do . . . in fact, it’s almost antithetical. So I’d rather stay where I am, keep plugging away bit by bit. If someone’s interested, that’s great.”



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