On Later Prophets , his third release as a leader, reedman Greg Wall continues to use traditional Jewish music as a starting point, as he has with Hasidic New Wave, but the complexion is altogether different. Traversing the diverse from an authentic ethnic style to Ayler-like freedom, from ambient work reminiscent of Mal Waldron’s work on Harold Budd’s The Pavilion of Dreams to subtle electronica, Wall weaves an intriguing and surprisingly accessible tapestry that is loosely based around the biblical story of Ezekiel.
Wall is accompanied for the most part by his trio, consisting of Israeli keyboardist Shai Bachar, who, since moving to New York in ’98, has been establishing a name for himself as an artist who melds a breadth of styles into a cogent sound; and drummer Aaron Alexander, a compatriot of Wall’s in Hasidic New Wave as well as the Klezmatics; with Gary Lucas dropping in to contribute some other-worldly guitar textures on two tracks. Together they create a sound that is difficult to pin down, so successfully does it mesh its roots into a coherent statement.
“The Bones Drew Near” opens in free jazz territory, albeit with a certain swing about it, before shifting into a more pensive improvisation by Wall over a backdrop that retains a rhythmic pulse that is taken more “out” by Bachar, in rich interplay with Alexander. The tune dissolves into an avant keyboard solo, more notable for its texture than its harmonic content. Wall slowly reintroduces himself with a passionate lyricism as the piece slowly recreates itself, building in intensity before dissolving again to an ambient-like fadeout.
“Death and Resurrection” pits Wall’s ethnic theme over suitably strangely appropriate Ra-esque work from Bachar. Alexander, responsible for creating movement within the piece, ranges from pulsing drums to free passages to up-tempo hora. “Malachi,” a darker piece, reflects the deep mysticism of the source text. “Can These Bones Come to Life?” finds the trio in a broadly cinematic mood, with Lucas’ guitar screaming and wailing. “Lamentations” concludes the album on a tender note, pairing Wall with Bachar alone on a track that could have come from Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ.
Wall manages to reflect the spirituality of the subject without making overt statements. There is a deep sense of reverence throughout, from “Zekiel Saw the Wheel,” which morphs a gospel-sounding theme into something more ethnically Jewish, to “Among the Exile, By the River Kiver,” where Lucas creates a textural ambient backwash for Wall. As impressive as all the players are, they are secondary to the end result; the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts.
With Later Prophets Greg Wall has created a highly personal statement that reflects emotions running the gamut from deep despair to intense hope. Sensuous at times, muscular at others, Later Prophets is a fine new recording from Wall, whose vision creates yet another alternative voice in John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture series.
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Personnel: Greg Wall (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Shai Bachar (keyboards, except