95: Jon Madof (Zion80)
Jon Madof was already starting to search when he was in highschool. Musically, he was drawn as much to Freddie Hubbard as he was to Fugazi. In college he studied Japanese and traveled to India, but also talked his way into the jazz department to take guitar lessons. Raised in a secular Jewish household, his spiritual exploration began with Zen Buddhism, and eventually led him to embrace Judaism.
He’s a persistent guy. When he eventually moved to New York city, he promised himself that he would play with his hero, saxophonist John Zorn. And it didn’t take long.
Several years ago, Jon started Zion80, after he had an idea while he was getting ready to take his kids to synagogue on Shabbat morning and started humming a song by Shlomo Carlebach. He had been listening to the music of Fela Kuti the night before, and the afrobeat rhythms were still in his head. The light bulb went off! What if he created a band that sounded like Fela Kuti playing the songs of Shlomo Carlebach (who is sometimes called The Singing Rabbi)?
Here he talks about how music and spirituality are related, what it means to create your own kind of authenticity, the difference between a job and a mission, and whether or not an artist’s work can be separated from their personal behavior - a theme that is particularly resonant today.
In November of 2017 Jon and his partner Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz started Chant Records, a new label to highlight the music he loves, and his musical community.