A pleasant surprise.
Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 05/31/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've a well documented love affair with Zorn's Masada songbook, so much so that I make the occasional foray to Manhattan from my new home in northern Massachusetts to catch performances of the songbook. Recently, having seen John Zorn put on a ten band in two night show, I've gotten a bit of a sneak preview of upcoming records from the Book of Angels, among those Ben Goldberg. When I saw Goldberg's band, I have to say, I was left with a very middle school music teacher feel from Goldberg. Suffice to say, "Baal" and Go Home have rewritten my impression.
For anyone unfamiliar, John Zorn originally conceived Masada as an opportunity to create a songbook, like Monk's, that a band could draw upon. A decade after the project was first conceived, Zorn set out to compose a second book of Masada songs, the Book of Angels, some 300 pieces to be performed by various ensembles. In this case, West Coast jazz clarinetist Ben Goldberg leading a quartet of Zorn regulars Jamie Saft (piano), Greg Cohen (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums).
Goldberg leads the ensemble through nine pieces, full of all the touchstone of great Masada works-- frenzied collective performances (opener "Chachmiel"), locomotive themes ("Irin"), show-stealing performances in support of solos (Wollesen underneath Goldberg on "Pharzuph") and the requisite cartoony burst ("Lahash"). But Goldberg puts his own stamp on the pieces, with just fantastic performances, be it the aching cry on "Reqel", the aggressive turn on "Irin" or the unaccompanied performance on "Uzza", a real standout piece with a great rhythmic pulse, hints at the theme and circular performances.
Goldberg's disk is perhaps lacking something that puts it up there with the best of the best of the Masada records, but it's an awfully good performance with a lot to love. Recommended."