Poznan Tzadik Festival for Jewish Music Lovers

One of the highlights was a concert by the renowned jazz artist John Zorn’s Masada quartet. The festivities, which opened on August 11, surprised fans, who thought of Zorn as an avant garde group. The group stuck to traditional jazz, although the pieces were laced with elements of  Jewish musical tradition.

Uri Caine appeared as a special guest at the concert to complement Zorn on saxophone, Dave Douglas on trumpet and the others. It was a coup for the festival to get Zorn, who is world-renowned not only for his musicianship but also because he founded the New York record company Tzadik in 1995. The Washington Post said Tzadik “champions Jewish music, jazz and avant-experimentalism.”The label, a major promoter of Jewish artists, has released more than 100 albums since its founding. In the last 10 years it has recorded some of the world’s most innovative Jewish artists, many of whom performed at the Poznan Tzadik Festival. “Tikkun” magazine recently said “Zorn has forged a hugely eclectic and uncompromising canon of music.”

Also appearing on opening night at the Poznan Tzadik Festival was the French quartet Zakarya, which combines Klezmer tradition with rock avant garde rather than jazz.

The festival is about more than music. It evokes Jewish religion, culture and tradition, especially the social and moral context of being Jewish. Events besides music included meetings with authors and poetry readings. Agnieszka Sabor, a journalist at the newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny, discussed her new book, “Shtetl: Traces of Jewish Small Towns.” A highlight of the last day of the festival was a poetry recitation of “A Holy Word, a Cursed Word.”

The concert venue – the former synagogue – helped create the nostalgic atmosphere that the festival organizers wanted. The synagogue on ul. Wroniecka opened in 1907. During World War II the Nazis removed the star of David from the dome. In 1940 they turned the building into a swimming pool for Wehrmacht soldiers. The pool is still in the temple to this day.

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