How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Of the various ensembles performing the Masada songbook under composer (and sometimes player) John Zorn's leadership, the Masada String Trio may not be the most excitingit's hard to compete with horns and guitarsbut it is the most beautiful. The sheer musicianship of the trio of violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander and bassist Greg Cohen is hard to beat, and they are among the most frequent interpreters of Zorn's hundreds of themes for the project.
Azazel is the second volume of recordings from the second book of Masada compositions (after the Jamie Saft Trio's Astaroth, Tzadik 2005) and the third disc by the trio. The musicians raise the excitement bar, however, delivering the most energetic performances they've yet recorded. That has something to do with the material: the first two pieces ("Tufiel and "Mibi ), and then the fourth ("Symnay ), proceed at breakneck speeds and most of the rest get pretty vivace. Who knew angels flew so fast?
Tzadik has built an expert production team, from Saft's bright, warm recording to Chippy's elegant design, and the label has built a sizeable audience as well, especially for the Masada projects. If, after a decade, a second set of compositions is what it took to keep the coal burning in the Masada oven, then Zorn is to be thanked. Azazel is guaranteed not to disappoint.