249

John Zorn / Mark Feldman / Sylvie Courvoisier: Malphas, Book of Angels Volume 3: Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier Play Masada Book Two

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Saxophonist/composer/entrepreneur John Zorn continues with his third in a series of releases dedicated to Masada Book Two—300 new compositions continuing the tradition established with his first Masada book, first introduced in 1994 with his flagship Masada quartet on Alef (DIW, 1994). Rather than using any single ensemble to interpret the new music, each album presents a different group. In the case of Malphas, Book of Angels Volume 3, violinist Mark Feldman and pianist Sylvie Courvoisier deliver an interpretation of Zorn's material as different as Jamie Saft Trio's Astaroth, Book of Angels Volume 1 (Tzadik, 2005) and the Masada String Trio's Azazel, Book of Angels, Volume 2 (Tzadik, 2005). Even the most diminutive of musical sketches—none of Zorn's Masada compositions exceed five lines on a musical page—can be grist for the broadest possibilities.

Malphas isn't the first time Feldman and Courvoisier have examined Zorn's so-called radical Jewish culture. On Masada 10 Years Volume Four: Masada Recital (Tzadik, 2004), the duo reinterpreted some of Zorn's best music from Masada Book One in a setting that, while resembling a classical chamber recital, revealed considerably more beneath the surface. While both artists are completely comfortable in the classical world, they've proven equally capable as imaginative improvisers. A previous outing, Abaton (ECM, 2003), teamed them with cellist Erik Friedlander for one disc of through-composed contemporary classical compositions by Courvoisier, plus a second disc of free improvisations. But while Masada Recital offered a unique approach to Zorn's music, many of the songs had been previously recorded—some in more than one musical configuration—creating frames of reference that caused familiar listeners to draw inevitable comparisons.

Since the material on Malphas is appearing on record for the first time, preconceptions are irrelevant and, if anything, Courvoisier and Feldman take Zorn's material even farther afield. While the opening tracks—"Azriel, with its dervish-like rhythm, and "Basus, with a frenetic theme that opens up into completely free territory—are in context with the existing Masada universe, they really only create a comfort zone, so that by the time you get to "Rigal —a lyrical waltz that could easily have come from the pen of Erik Satie—you're inside the duo's aesthetic and ready for anything.

Feldman and Courvoisier often blur the line between what's on the written page and what's in their vivid imaginations. While "Labariel begins in sombre abstraction, they also demonstrate a sense of humour. After quoting Mozart briefly as a device to lead into even bleaker territory broken up by brief rhythmic passages, it's more a vehicle for individual and collective improvisations, ranging from dark delicacy to abstruse majesty.

It's no longer extraordinary for contemporary musicians to be comfortable with both classical and improvised music. But Feldman and Courvoisier are so at ease that the result ceases to fit in either world. Instead, with Malphas they move into new territory that—along with the Masada string trio—may be the most purely evocative and distinctive interpretation of Zorn's music yet.

Visit Sylvie Courvoisier on the web.


Track Listing: Azriel; Basus; Rigal Kafziel; Labariel; Zethar; Paschal; Boel; Sammael; Padiel; Sretil.

Personnel: Mark Feldman: violin; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano.

Title: Malphas, Book of Angels Volume 3: Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier Play Masada Book Two | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Tzadik


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Float Upstream CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Extremophile CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Setembro CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017
Read The Source CD/LP/Track Review The Source
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Aqustico vol 2 CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "America's National Parks" CD/LP/Track Review America's National Parks
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 10, 2016
Read "Jondo" CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Blue Canvas" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Canvas
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 4, 2017
Read "The Tenth Muse" CD/LP/Track Review The Tenth Muse
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: April 7, 2017
Read "Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Seeing Is Believing" CD/LP/Track Review Seeing Is Believing
by Jim Trageser
Published: December 27, 2016

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.