333

Masada: Sanhedrin: Unreleased Studio Recordings 1994-1997

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Masada: Sanhedrin: Unreleased Studio Recordings 1994-1997 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).

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Tzadik | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 26, 2017
Read This Is Nate Najar CD/LP/Track Review This Is Nate Najar
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Joy Comes Back CD/LP/Track Review Joy Comes Back
by James Nadal
Published: February 26, 2017
Read Apocalypse CD/LP/Track Review Apocalypse
by Julian Derry
Published: February 26, 2017
Read The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door CD/LP/Track Review The Sound of Surprise: Live at the Side Door
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 25, 2017
Read "Shipwreck 4" CD/LP/Track Review Shipwreck 4
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 13, 2016
Read "Second Impression" CD/LP/Track Review Second Impression
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Diachronic Paths" CD/LP/Track Review Diachronic Paths
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 15, 2016
Read "Crystal Moth" CD/LP/Track Review Crystal Moth
by Glenn Astarita
Published: January 1, 2017
Read "Blues, Preludes and Feuds" CD/LP/Track Review Blues, Preludes and Feuds
by Geannine Reid
Published: November 22, 2016
Read "Cosmic Adventure" CD/LP/Track Review Cosmic Adventure
by James Nadal
Published: August 16, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!