Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Lord Chimp | Monkey World | 04/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So far I have acquired five studio albums by this remarkable jazz quartet and I am really amazed by the uniformly high quality of their work. Comprised of the inimitable John Zorn (alto sax), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Greg Cohen (bass), and Joey Baron (drums), Masada is the marriage of adventurous jazz and Jewish music (which itself has a resourceful heritage, with roots in Eastern Europe, Israel, Chassidic tradition, Germany, and probably more). On this disc, vol. 5 _Hei_, "Paran" gracefully explores melodic Jewish idioms; "Hobah", the longest song, is mostly impassioned stretches of free jazz. Other songs appear somewhere along the spectrum between the two. When not involved in stormy Coleman-ish free-bop, the music's melodies and rhythms evoke exotic lands.Joey Baron and Greg Cohen are astonishing in their roles. Cohen's watery tones are splendid and he is fully capable of engrossing music with little accompaniment (see "Neshamah"). Joey Baron is the master of beat and pulse, also impressing with sheer dexterity on "Yoreh" and other neat-handed moments, but ultimately it is his interaction with his fellows which is most arresting. Zorn and Douglas are simply awesome, with the soloist always having contrapuntal support from his colleague. This generates a bustling, dense sound, complex but also very melodic. The overall interaction between this ensemble is stunning, which is possibly never more evident than on the last song, "Hafla'ah", a good study in chord harmony and fiery jazz musicianship.All of the Masada albums I have heard so far are absolutely great...hard to pick favorites. This was my first exposure to them, however, so it might be a good start for someone else as well. You could probably do well with any of them, honestly, except for vol. 4 (which is only three songs). Masada is an especially important group for those people who think John Zorn is nothing but a crazy, squawking avant-jazz fiend.If you enjoy this, I strongly recommend John Zorn's _The Circle Maker_, a two-disc set of sublime chamber jazz interpreting pieces from the Masada songbook. It features the Masada String Trio on one disc and the Bar Kokhba Sextet on another. (I don't think it has any of the songs from _Hei_ though.)"
Not as memorable as much of the rest of the Masada pieces.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 06/23/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
""Hei" is the first of two albums recorded by Masada over two days in July of 1995. It is, in my assessment, one of the weakest entries into the Masada catalog, but be aware-- this doesn't make this by any stretch not an enjoyable listen, it just means that comparatively speaking, its a weak effort, and my rating is reflective of how it measures up to the rest of the Masada studio material.
Masada consists of composer/alto saxaphonist John zorn, trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassit Greg Cohen, and drummer Joey Baron. Musically, it is often simplified as Ornette meets klezmer. The keys to to this music are the use of Jewish scales in simple jazz compositions, collective improvisations, often more than one musician solos at a time, and brilliant interaction-- these guys play together fantastically and often the highlight of a solo isn't the soloist, but rather the support structure.
I'm not sure what it is about this record that makes it less enjoyable than the rest for me-- I suspect its that I don't find any of the themes particularly memorable-- the playing is, particularly from Joey Baron, superb, and there are several decent pieces on here-- "Halishah" is kind of an unexciting theme but Baron's performance definitely steals the show, "Yoreh" has an unusual march beat and some fine soloing from Douglas, "Beeroth" is a drum feature and Baron tkaes full advantage of his center stage, showing not only his stunning technique but his sense of style and taste (so rare even in jazz drum solos), and "Lakum" is a neat little thrash jazz piece. But really none of these stand out or stick in my head. In an interview, Zorn pointed out that Masada was a "major exploration of melody", and these melodies just aren't particularly memorable.
Start with one of the first three Masada records (or the live "50th Birthday Celebration Volume 7"), come to this after you've digested some of their better executed music. It's a good record, but there's a whole lot better in the catalog."