Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Review: Masada - Sanhedrin – 1994-1997 Unreleased Studio Recordings

Masada have hardly been a slouch in recording terms, creating ten studio works and releasing a strong fistful of live albums, with most coming from just one seven-year stretch. And yet here, you would have thought impossibly, we have an out-takes selection.

Made up of pieces taken from eight separate sessions over a four year period, ‘Sanhedrin’ actually features pieces that for the most part have been released before, but in a different take; and this being John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen and Joey Baron, none of the takes here sound like the perhaps more familiar versions. Rather each serves as a springboard for a very different improvisation.

And that’s where the fun lies; hearing how each of the players and the group as a whole vary in each of their solos and interactions, even though they probably only just laid down a different version only minutes before (or later).

It is in truth though not an essential Masada work, due to the partially mish-mash feel that this mix of different sessions over different times can give. It can feel like a collection of off-cuts, but does work better than one or two of the ‘official’ Masada studio albums that themselves felt like albums of scraps.

Whether this is for you depends on just how much Masada you already have and how much more you want. If you absolutely must have everything, then this is a good compilation that sits nicely alongside everything else. For anyone else it’s probably preferable to ‘Dalet’ and ‘Zayin’, the fourth and seventh studio volumes, but you would easily be better served by getting every other studio and live release by this stellar group before you invest in ‘Sanhedrin’. As a collection of its type though, its standard is very high and should not be dismissed as just a barrel-scraping exercise like many similar recordings of this ilk frequently, yet justifiably, are.


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