Impressively going from strength to strength, Masada hit a notable bump in the road with part 7, ‘Zayin’, a recording that surprisingly seems to be very disjointed and lacks flow, but like similar earlier bump ‘Dalet’ (AKA volume 4), there is still some beautiful music to recommend.
‘Hath-Arob’ is John Zorn and Dave Douglas blowing hard in their best Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry style, and Greg Cohen gets a deserved bass showcase on ‘Otiot’, seemingly written just for him. Joey Baron by contrast seems perhaps more restrained with his drums this time around, somewhat disappointingly.
But the playing here is not the issue. Too much here seems schizophrenic, with ‘Shamor’ swinging between melodic beauty and angry roars that don’t quite gel, while ‘Kadem’ is an almost polar opposite, boasting a nice ‘low ‘n’ slow’ atmosphere that then doesn’t do anything of interest. Were it five minutes, perhaps this would be less of a problem. As it stands though, it’s ten minutes that go nowhere interesting, before slumping to a tired finish.
And that’s how ‘Zayin’ stands up. There is still much joy and winning Eastern European and Middle Eastern melody, harmony and atmosphere all over the album, but the hugely mixed bag effect is jarring, at times to the extreme. Masada has been described as being equally a songbook as it is a group, however you get the feeling that perhaps a few of those in the songbook should have fallen by the wayside. As it happens, it instead it feels like part 7 is an odds-and-sods collection of the groups more out-there testing ground efforts that didn’t feel right on the other much better volumes. And for that reason this should really be considered one of this otherwise stellar groups very least records.