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John Zorn: Masada Nine

Jim Santella By

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John Zorn's new release, subtitled Tet, brings his ensemble Masada once again to the world of listeners who prefer Free Jazz, World Music, and creative improvised music under one roof. Masada includes alto saxophonist Zorn, trumpeter Dave Douglas, acoustic bassist Greg Cohen, and drummer Joey Baron. Each participates equally, and each has a lot to say: Zorn's expressive saxophone voice is light and dry with flexibility; Douglas is a master of the trumpet, combining wide interval leaps with a full, clear, open tone; Cohen is well-disciplined, offers harmonic double-stops, and keeps the rhythm in tow; Baron performs as though he had four hands, but observes changes in the compositional purpose and opens up the spaces appropriately.

Never losing the element of "swing," Zorn's Masada draws from early modal forms of music; the listener can easily recognize ethnic influences such as Gypsy, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Mediterranean, Russian, French, Spanish, and more. Dance forms such as tango, bulgar, and freylekh combine with Yiddish cultural steps and weave their way through Zorn's compositions.

From the swinging "Chayah" and "Moshav" to the frightening "Karet" and "Leshem," each of Zorn's compositions has a purpose. The dance "Meholalot" brings Douglas and Zorn together, as their melodies intertwine the same way dancers do. "Jachin," a fast dance in three, pours out the emotion so common in any Yiddish-inspired work. The highlight is "Acharei Mot," with its free spirit, Eastern world feel, and soulful solo work by Zorn and Douglas. Highly Recommended.


Track Listing: Chayah; Karet; Moshav; Leshem; Kochot; Meholalot; Kedushah; Ner Tamid; Acharei Mot; Jachin.

Title: Masada Nine | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: DIW


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