After a relatively disappointing volume 4, John Zorn and Masada decided to reconvene and show their best hand yet with volume 5, ‘Hei’.
Whereas the first four volumes came from two recording sessions (with one session providing material for a whole three and half of those), ‘Hei’ comes from two entirely new fresh sessions, and it shows, with the band now having developed a much stronger and tighter sound, and arguably more confidence.
Zorn and trumpeter Dave Douglas shine even brighter than previously, referencing Ornette Coleman and also touching more on plenty of Middle Eastern melody and harmony, beautifully subtly on the opening ‘Paran’ but much more obviously as the album goes on.
‘Hobah’ returns the quartet to their more aggressive identity, shaking things up, but also crucially keeping things fresh. It is on album highlight ‘Beeroth’ though that bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron really get to play like men possessed, propelling the music forward with such power that Zorn and Douglas almost sound like they might need to reassert themselves.
A gloriously thrilling album, and arguably the pinnacle of Masada’s studio work (although there are easily a good number of potential rivals) it is also without doubt one of Zorn’s most melodic recordings, and for any fan of each of the men here, free jazz, Middle Eastern fusion, or even just new and exciting music, this is a great collection worth investing some serious time in.