Masada’s ‘Live In Middleheim’ gives us the band possibly at the peak of their powers, in 1999, where the quartet had developed such an interplay together that anything they would play live would be bound to guarantee a high level of excellence.
The group absolutely explodes into action with the thrilling ‘Nevuah’, with John Zorn and Dave Douglas playing a dual solo lead that has a thunderous backing courtesy of Greg Cohen’s bass and Joey Baron’s storming drums. If you ever doubted Baron’s potential as best contemporary jazz drummer then this alone should convince you otherwise. ‘Sippur’ too maintains the intense nature of the music, albeit in a slightly quieter fashion, while after this things tend to ease off a little bit.
‘Kochot’ showcases Dave Douglas playing with a highly understated, yet enormously beautiful trumpet, that shows exactly why he’s been in so much demand for his entire career, while ‘Kedushah’ is Greg Cohen’s biggest moment in the sun, perfectly blending yearning beauty with full-blooded aggression.
Everywhere on here shows us a perfect melding of Eastern sounds and the avant jazz world, with the best pieces here being a very fine and deep-grooved ‘Ne’eman’, highlighting Zorn at his restrained and more-minimal best, and the stunningly gorgeous ‘Ashnah’ that surely is one of the very best group performance pieces by this quartet.
‘Live In Middelheim’ is without doubt one of the strongest, if shorter, of the Masada live albums (possessing just the one set/disc, as opposed to the usual two), and is a clear example of the musical telepathy displayed by the four men – all the more breathtaking given that this performance was their first appearance together in almost a whole half year. The recording quality too is pristine, giving us some deeply inspired solo and group playing with a full rich palette of sound. An ideal starting point for anyone interested in some Masada, live or otherwise, this is essential for anyone who counts themselves a fan of any of the musicians here, and even godfather of free-jazz Ornette Coleman. It’s that good.