Exploding into life with manic fury, Masada’s tenth volume ‘Yod’ shows no sign of ending their studio catalogue run with a graceful retirement, instead choosing to play some of the most wild and free music the quartet have ever recorded. And while perhaps ‘Yod’ ranks as one of the more accessible of Masada’s works, it certainly is nowhere near an easy listen.
There’s a strong ‘go for broke’ feel to these final studio dates, but also a highly notable overt klezmer influence. Whereas before it was a sound that added to the melting pot, here instead it’s a more dominant factor, with pieces like ‘Tevel’ and ‘Zevul’ sounding almost like a traditional Jewish number filtered through free-jazz.
A darker feel too rules the album, whether on the yearning yet mournful ‘Yechida’, or the more in-your-face ‘Ruach’ that ranks as probably the most powerful number Masada have ever laid to tape. The centre of the album does possess a gentler pace than its bookends, but still maintains its distinct atmosphere, and also crucially some great solos from the front-line duo of John Zorn and Dave Douglas.
The last of Masada’s studio run, it’s a great album in its own right as well as being a good way to end the ‘songbook’. But crucially this would not be the end to Masada, with some brilliant live albums to come and Zorn reconfiguring the project in part with Bar Kokhba (and the Bar Kokhba Sextet), The Masada String Trio and Electric Masada, many of which would feature Masada alumni. Additionally Zorn would go on to write hundred more tunes for the Masada songbook under the title ‘Book Of Angels’ to be played by other musicians. All of which are very much worth investigating.