Sunday, 1 June 2014

Review: Masada - Volume 3 - Gimel

Volume number three for John Zorn’s Masada, and ‘Gimel’ though recorded at the same sessions as ‘Alef’ and ‘Beit’ raises the bar to near-perfection. Of course the outfit of Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Joey Baron are as excellent as ever and together form arguably the finest twin-horn inspired quartet this side of Ornette Coleman.

‘Gimel’ is a notably more diverse and experimental record than before, though not necessarily toward the avant garde. Aside from the assumed dense ‘Masada sound’ of some pieces here, a good few numbers possess a stunningly meditative vibe. ‘Abidan’ in particular, featuring some superb Zorn and Douglas teamwork, is a real gem, not just on this album, but also in the entire Masada discography. ‘Karaim’ too benefits from some incredible playing courtesy of Douglas, while ‘Tannaim’ chooses a more spacious and clear sound than is usual, and with its sumptuous Eastern leanings it works to great effect. ‘Sheloshim’ is perhaps an odd mix, starting with a simmering tension that is pure brilliance, before exploding into something both passionate and aggressive, that though also strong, doesn’t quite gel with how it starts. It is however by no means a weak track.

A very strong slice of the hefty Masada catalogue, ‘Gimel’ with the first two volumes forms a genuinely great opening trilogy that should all definitely be investigated. Zorn obviously loved it a great deal too as he would go on to rework some of the material here for his equally great Bar Kokhba.


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