The second release of New York-based Israeli guitarist Eyal Maoz alt-klezmer quartet Edom is a schizophrenic one. On one hand, Maoz faithfully follows Tzadik founder John Zorn's hybridized post-modern pastiche of klezmer and Jewish musical traditions, and musical references that are typical of the label's Radical Jewish Culture series. This is most audible in the manner that Maoz adopts the angst and skronk style of Zorn's leading guitarist in his Jewish-related projects, Marc Ribot. On the other hand, this release represents Maoz's clear attempt to distance himself from Zorn's burdening heritage and articulate his own musical language, one that is rooted with Jewish/Middle-Eastern sounds, ironic and sometimes even a sarcastic. Unfortunately, he does not dare to go all the way.
Maoz is accompanied by an almost new quartet except for bassist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, a close musical partner since the days that Maoz led the Lemon Juice Quartet. The two other members of Edom are keyboardist Brian Marsella from Cyro Baptista's Banquet of the Spirits and drummer Yuval Lion, from another alt-klezmer outfit, Pharaoh's Daughter. This quartet cushions Maoz's inventive and thorny guitar playing but rarely pushes him or challenges him beyond the clear outlines of his compositions. Lion lacks the sophistication and elegance of Edom's original drummer, Ben Perowsky, or the manic aggression of other drummers that Maoz has collaborated with such as Kevin Zubek from the Lemon Juice Quartet or Asaf Sirkis, as evidenced by their recent Elementary Dialogues, (Ayler, 2009).
While Maoz and Marsella charge with a sweeping onslaught on tracks such "Tsi," "Messenger," and 'Skies"suggesting an original and even competing vision to the post-modernist one of Zorn, almost in the same manner that Koby Israelite, another Tzadik's mainstay, doesBlumenkranz and Lion anchor them in a trite rhythmic formula that obscures Moaz's clever compositional ideas and the guitarist's telepathic affinity with Marsella. Tracks that flirt with soul-jazz and funkier forms such as "Slight Sun" or the Ennio Morricone-western themed "Eagle" and "Shell," or the ironic "King," dim Maoz's imaginative solo bursts and almost lose their infectious effect due to the bland drumming. No wonder that the most impressive composition here is the duet, "Down," featuring Maoz and Marsella, where Maoz explores his poetic guitar playing.
According to the liner notes, Hope and Destruction, was conceived as a mythically shaped apocalyptic tale pierced with bursts of sunlight. The skills of Maoz are not in doubt, even on such an unsatisfactory project, and hopefully his next project will offer a more cohesive insight into this gifted guitarist and composer.
Personnel: Eyal Maoz: guitar; Brian Marsella: keyboards; Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: bass: Yuval Lion: drums.