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Eyal Maoz: Edom (2005)

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Eyal Maoz: Edom How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Guitarist Eyal Maoz, known as a leader of Lemon Juice, is joined here by organist John Medeski, bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, and drummer Ben Perowsky. Edom, a new entry in the Radical Jewish Culture series on John Zorn's Tzadik Records, is influenced by both Mediterranean music and Jewish folklore, composed and played through the musical prism of Eyal Maoz.

Before we begin our journey through this album, I'd like to throw a quick glance at a little maneuver that hides in the title of the last track of the album. "Eye" is "Ain" in Hebrew, which is also the 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. And this little letter separates "faith" ("dat") from "wisdom" ("daat"). In other words, wisdom isn't a "blind" faith but a well-considered one. Through this "Eye," which differentiates a sage from a follower, I'd like to view the whole album.

Although each track was written separately, in different time, place, and of course (as it can be heard) mood, there's a common line, a kind of light-motive that thrills the whole album. The opening "Innocence" might seem too calm and not daring enough, but it's a kind of prelude—like a hunter or a predator that tests the area, before beginning the journey. Very quickly, petals of that purity are lost, and on the very next piece, "Hope and Destruction," we are immersed into a whirlpool of strong, well-built sounds. Hope and destruction have escorted the children of Isaac ever since. Through the years in lands that are far from their mountains and not even close to Jerusalem, the hope emerged again and again while the destruction tried to erase it. That dance of two rivals, flouncing all around, to and fro, is reflected in the solos.

While John Medeski and Ben Perowsky are well-known worldwide, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz is quite less popular, although he has taken part in several projects. Maoz and Blumenkranz met in Israel, where they played in Lemon Juice. Their collaboration during their the undergraduate days gave birth to a long-term musical relationship—Blumenkranz played in almost every band which Eyal Maoz has led since then. The result of this relationship can be seen in the fourth track, "Deep," where Shanir's deep understanding of Eyal's music gives a perfect soil for a good bass solo that flowers into a solo by Maoz. One of Eyal Maoz's benefits is his unique sound and musical language, and unfortunately there are many guitar players about whom we can't say the same. However, one can always recognize Maoz's music, even after hearing him just once.

Maoz says, "This album is a combination of joy, beauty, hope and pain. All elements that I always have in some way in my music and playing—and each track has some elements of that." Three powerful though gentle pieces, "Chita," "From There," and "Strength," exemplify this statement. The last track, "Big," summarizes the whole album. Viewing it with an already trained "Eye," this track can be considered as the apotheosis of the whole album—power, gentleness, purity, and intension.

Whenever a conversation turns to Edom, we can't avoid turning to the patriarch of his people—Esau, the brother of Jacob. Esau is described as a tough man, a hunter who knew his art well. Esau was Isaac's favorite son, while Jacob was loved by his mother Rivkah. By deceptive acts, Jacob first bought from Esau his seniority and, when Isaac felt that his death is close, Jacob accepted a blessing that was destined to Esau. Their lives separated until a few years later, when they finally met. Esau was happy to see his brother—he ran to him and hugged him and kissed him and he cried. This album tries to draw the image of Esau. On first glance he might seem a simple hunter—however, as we later discover, he appears to be a much more complicated character.

Track Listing: Innocence; Hope and Destruction; Lost; Deep; Chita; From There; Big; Strength; Eye.

Personnel: Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: acoustic and electric bass; Eyal Maoz: guitar; John Medeski: organ; Ben Perowsky: drums.

Record Label: Tzadik

Style: Modern Jazz


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