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Keith Marks Shares His Curious Mind through Radical Jewish Music

Keith Marks


Jacksonville music lovers will benefit from local arts producer, Keith Marks’, curious mind. He is responsible for a generous donation of a collection of 280 CDs, anthologies of musicians’ writing, and a number of DVDs valued at $4,200 to the Jacksonville Public Library by Avant, a Jacksonville-based music events organization founded by Marks. The donation includes the entire, current Radical Jewish Culture (RJC) catalog and several records from Masada Book Two: Book of Angels and other music from composer John Zorn’s Tzadik record label. Zorn, who founded the RJC movement in New York City in the early 1990s, asks artists, “What is Jewish music? What is its future?” (See below for Zorn’s explanation about his creation of RJC.) This donation to the Jacksonville Public Library is a result of Marks wanting to explore and participate in those questions. After spending time in Israel, Marks wanted to figure out what his Jewish ancestry means for him. An avid music lover, he turned to music to help with his journey, which led to the discovery of RJC. Keith searched the Jacksonville Public Library for sources, but quickly exhausted the library’s limited collection of RJC music. Thus began the quest to enable free, public access of these non-traditional forms of music. “In this age of Spotify and Pandora, mainstream music is easy to access. Radical Jewish Culture music, which is on the fringe, is not. I want to educate others about different music,” stated Marks.

Uri Caine


After about six months of fundraising to purchase the materials, the quest is becoming a reality. The donation will be officially celebrated on May 15, 2016 at the Main Library with a free solo concert by Uri Caine, Grammy-nominated pianist and composer. Caine is represented on a number of the albums being donated. And the timing is no coincidence as May is National Jewish American Heritage Month. Go to Eventbrite for concert details. Through the process Avant was born. Avant, a 501(c)3 organization, is a music series dedicated to exploring new and exciting music outside the confines of genre and expectation, creating a community of adventurous music listeners. There will be more to come from Avant and Keith Marks’ curious mind. Library customers can check out the Radical Jewish Culture collection after May 15, 2016. Search for Radical Jewish Culture Project in the library catalog to browse available materials.

" 1993 I began to write a book of tunes loosely inspired by the catalogs of great songwriters like Burt Bacharach, Thelonius Monk, Kurt Weill & Ornette Coleman. Simple tunes that could both provide inspiration and act as a formal model for improvisers familiar with negotiating chord changes. Tying this challenge together with my personal Jewish odyssey and my skills as a saxophonist gave birth to the world of Masada. A world that began as my manipulation of two simple Jewish scales, and became, perhaps through the infamous map of misreading, an original language combining all my varied musical obsessions.After the composition Kristallnacht in 1992, it was very much my desire to create that spoke of a beautiful and positive future for the Jewish people. The progression of the jazz language from King Oliver & Jelly Roll Morton through to Miles Davis & Cecil Taylor in a brief fifty years made me yearn for the same possibilities for Jewish music, evolving it a bit further from its centuries old klezmer roots. Incorporating more contemporary influences into klezmer's 17th & 18th century amalgam of gypsy, Balkan & Arabic music seemed organic & natural Jazz, Rock, Classical, World Music, Blues...everything that I loved and had learned from went into the new mix that I dubbed Masada/Radical Jewish Culture" -John Zorn - from liner notes in Masada's Sanhedrin double disc album, Unreleased Studio Recordings


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