Mary Halvorson: Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32

Don Phipps By

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Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 offers up the final installment in prolific composer John Zorn's 32-album sojourn (titled Book of Angels). It is an exciting and fitting capstone. From the start, the music dances its way through contrasts of exciting, mysterious, probing, exotic, and shifting musical folk-jazz idioms, improvisations and compositions.

The Mary Halvorson Quartet are Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Drew Gress on bass, Mary Halvorson on guitar, and Miles Okazaki on guitar.

There is much to love about this recording. Both guitarists, Mary Halvorson and Miles Okazaki, take turns providing gentle melodies and jarring improvisations over and above the musical compositions. Throughout, the guitarists are aided by Drew Gress, who lays down strong deep bass lines, and master drummer Tomas Fujiwara, who uses all aspects of the drum set to add color and expression to the musical conversation.

The album begins with the energetic "Chaskiel" and its running guitar motif in excited conversation with bass and drums. The next composition, "Beniel," commands attention, with its strong guitar improvisations on top of dissonant chords. Meanwhile, the bass opens up and the drum adds an explosive charge to the music. "Ruhiel" follows, offering a theme evoking mystery accentuated by dance-like rhythms. "Dhariel" also suggests a dance, this one more free form than "Ruhiel." Guitars, bass, and drums seem to float and bounce off each other in a delightful tapestry of sound.

"Yequon" brings to mind a late night crossing of an expansive desert. One guitar provides a gentle solo over the shifting drums and evocative bass line. Slowly another guitar emerges in the background, playing off the first with its own imaginative struts. The music slowly builds in intensity.

"Uzza" begins with close unison by the guitarists and bass, and then over the odd time signature, the bass moves forward with a repeating, hard-driving motif as a guitar takes flight with an extended solo, followed by the second guitar with its sharp picks and struts. The piece ends in a rousing restatement of the primary motif.

"Verchief" has a bluesy Hawaiian feel and features a ruminating solo by bassist Gress over Fujiwara's march. The brief "Jesodoth" takes off with complex interplay and unison of the guitars. "Phul," like "Yequon," rolls on like a night desert sojourn. It brings to mind the Bowles's novel, "The Sheltering Sky," with a canopy of night stars as a guide—listen to the beautiful ethereal guitar expression beginning about five and half minutes into the track. The album winds down with the warm folk song "Rachmiah."

In the hands of The Mary Halvorson Quartet, Zorn's Volume 32 offers stunning and evocative music. This is music created by master musicians, music to be savored, treasured, and embraced. The night sky, the desert, the whirling dance beckon the listener to shake off the daily grind. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Chaskiel; Beniel; Ruhiel; Dahariel; Yeqon; Uzza; Verchiel; Jesodoth; Phul; Rachmiah.


Drew Gress: Bass; Tomas Fujiwara: Drums; Mary Halvorson: Guitar; Miles Okazaki: Guitar.

Album information

Title: Paimon: Book of Angels Volume 32 | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Tzadik



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