Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

333

Masada: Sanhedrin: Unreleased Studio Recordings 1994-1997

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
When alto saxophonist/composer John Zorn brought trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Greg Cohen, and drummer Joey Baron together for a series of sessions dedicated to bringing the harmonic roots of traditional Jewish music into a new improvisational context, little did he know that his songbook, ultimately growing to include over two hundred compositions, would grow into what has proven to be his most enduring and endearing work.

The Masada songbook, and the original Masada quartet, would be the starting point for interpretations by groups including the chamber-like Masada String Trio, the aggressive Electric Masada, and the austere Masada Recital. But while the different projects would prove just how malleable Zorn's sketch-like but clearly focused material could be, it's the flagship Masada quartet that has defined not only Zorn's repertoire, but provided the basis for the Zorn's Radical Jewish Culture movement, a growing body of work on his Tzadik label.

Ten studio albums and numerous live recordings documented the quartet's incredible chemistry, from their first sessions in '94 through to the end of the decade, after which they would only sporadically reconvene for live performances. Anyone with the good fortune of seeing the band live has witnessed the true potential of orchestrated freedom. Shifting effortlessly from reckless abandon to staggering rapid-fire arrangements, all directed by Zorn's hand movements, if ever a band has spoken with a single voice, it has been Masada.

Now, a decade after the first sessions in February, '94, Zorn has chosen to release Sanhedrin: Unreleased Studio recordings 1994-1997, a generous two-CD set packaged as a gorgeous hardcover book containing reminiscences by the band, and if it's a release that Masada fans won't want to miss, it's also outstanding introduction to those unfamiliar with the project.

Thinking "Ornette Coleman meets klezmer is only the beginning. The material ranges from energetic yet lyrical pieces like "Meholalot to the brooding inflections of "Idalah Abal ; from the fast-swing of "Zelah to the melancholy "Abidan. Many of the 29 pieces have appeared elsewhere, but given the interpretive freedom built into Zorn's compositions, these alternate performances are as vital as the originals.

While each member of the group was already known on the Downtown New York scene, Masada catapulted Zorn, Douglas, Cohen, and Baron to greater degrees of fame—most notably Douglas, who has gone on to a personal body of work as varied and eclectic as Zorn's. Baron and Cohen continue to be in-demand players, and Zorn's oeuvre seems to grow almost exponentially.

That Zorn has composed a new book of over three hundred Masada tunes is exciting news. That this new repertoire will be interpreted by groups other than the Masada quartet leads to anticipation of how the project will evolve. But in the meantime, Sanhedrin shows where it all began—with four players clearly excited by a new musical prospect and the elation of total empathy.


Track Listing: Disc One: Piram; Lebaoth; Idalah Abal; Midbar; Zelah; Katzatz; Abidan; Hekhal; Tannaim; Nefesh; Neshamah; Lakom; Tiferet; Evel. Disc Two: Hath Arob; Mahshav; Zemer; Ne Eman; Mehalalot; Kochot; Jachin; Moshav; Acharei Mot; Kilayim; Otiot; Nashim; Karet; Hashmal; Ruach.

Personnel: John Zorn (alto saxophone); Dave Douglas (trumpet); Greg Cohen (bass); Joey Baron (drums).

Title: Sanhedrin: Unreleased Studio Recordings 1994-1997 | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Tzadik

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read OR CD/LP/Track Review OR
by Geno Thackara
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Reaching Out CD/LP/Track Review Reaching Out
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 18, 2018
Read The Songbook Project CD/LP/Track Review The Songbook Project
by Don Phipps
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Solo a Genova CD/LP/Track Review Solo a Genova
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 18, 2018
Read Satoko Fujii Solo CD/LP/Track Review Satoko Fujii Solo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 17, 2018
Read when the shade is stretched CD/LP/Track Review when the shade is stretched
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 17, 2018
Read "Happy Juice" CD/LP/Track Review Happy Juice
by David A. Orthmann
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "Living In Twilight" CD/LP/Track Review Living In Twilight
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 31, 2017
Read "Formidable" CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "Nerve Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "Waller" CD/LP/Track Review Waller
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Pigs & Fairies" CD/LP/Track Review Pigs & Fairies
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 16, 2017