Masada – Electric Masada (Tzadik, 2004)
This is another release from the massive Tzadik series of releases documenting John Zorn’s 50th birthday celebrations at the Tonic in New York City. Electric Masada is an ad-hoc group made up of Zorn, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen and Joey Barron while adding Marc Ribot on guitar and Ikue Mori on electronics and some extra percussion.
This expanded group keeps the regular Masada sound of Hebrew and Middle Eastern melodies, but also includes heavy doses of Miles Davis fusion, electric funk and punk rock. Ribot is an inspired choice for this assignment because he is comfortable in many different types of improvisational environments – Zorn too, he’s experimented with so many different ensembles over the years that he’s able to change chameleon like and fit his trademark sound into any type of group.
Speaking in the most broad terms, the music alternates between free jazz blowouts, and some quieter sections where the music bubbles and simmers. All in all, this is a successful experiment. There are a few dead spots, with high-wire improvisation that’s to be expected and if anything the disc is a tad too long, clocking in at nearly the full length of a compact disc.
The group only plays together every once in a while, so further performing at festivals and clubs would further tighten the sound and really turn them into a lean fighting machine. This is still an interesting disc and anyone with an interest in the wilder side of fusion is encouraged to check it out.
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