Friday, July 9, 2010

John Zorn - The Circle Maker (1998)

| Avant-Classical | Chamber Jazz | Post-Bop |
| Jazz Fusion |

This two-disc release captures beautiful and refined music that makes full use of two ensembles' extraordinary musicianship. Drawing from John Zorn's Masada songbook are the Masada String Trio and the Bar Kokhba Sextet. Each ensemble fills one CD with beautiful chamber jazz woven around a heart of Jewish melodies. Zorn skeptics will find the superb and elegant music on The Circle Maker surprisingly stable and accessible. This is a fitting successor to the other Masada works that Zorn doesn't actually perform on — the first Masada chamber project, Bar Kokhba, and Film Works, Vol. 8, whose recording session wrapped up weeks before this weekend date of December 1997. Issachar is the name of the disc on which bassist Greg Cohen, cellist Erik Friedlander, and violinist Mark Feldman perform. Zevulun features the Bar Kokhba Sextet: the Masada String Trio plus drummer Joey Baron, percussionist Cyro Baptista, and guitarist Marc Ribot. All of these musicians are accomplished in jazz and improvised music, and have performed extensively in world and/or classical settings as well. The Circle Maker is a very necessary recording for all appreciators of chamber jazz, new Jewish music, or any of these stellar musicians.

The first disc - Isaachar, featuring Masada String Trio - is my favourite on the set. It resembles a lot the Masada quartet works, with the rhythmic session (bass) and two soloists (violin and cello). It's also one of Zorn's best works ever; the emotion captured by the string arrangements and the sharp-edge improvisation makes this disc a beautiful collection of jazz tunes, flirting with classical and jewish music. Chamber Jazz never sounded so tasty!

Zevulun, disc two, is a little bit weaker. It has more variety, with moments hitting close to Fusion and Surf Jazz, but it doesn't capture the emotional power of the first disc. It also differs a lot from the Masada quartet sound; having a guitar and double percussion on the band gives a totally new tonality to the Masada book tunes. Zevulun is a great disc, in its own way - it just doesn't catch up with the awesomeness of the Isaachar.

Catalog: TZ 7122 (Tzadik)
Download (192kbps)

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