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MASADA

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Masada biography
Masada is one of the most well-known band founded by great American saxophonist and composer John Zorn in 1994. The Masada songbook is Zorn's attempt at forging a new form of Jewish music, one consciously rooted in the past and with an eye to the future of Jewish culture. Zorn's few hundred Masada compositions integrate elements of klezmer, Eastern and Middle music with jazz, avant-garde, and classical, to produce this new form of Jewish music. It does not emphasize the unity and permanence of the Jewish experience, but rather its many facets and aspects. Zorn doesn't draw on one tradition, but on many. Like Zorn's Great Jewish Music series on Tzadik, he identifies Jewish music as not just klezmer, but all kinds of music that Jews of the ages have lived with, composed and performed. All these types of music, from Mahler's symphonies to Burt Bacharach's pop melodies and Lou Reed's dissonant rock are echoed in the Masada songbook.
The project seems to indicate a major shift in Zorn's output and intent for his music. Compositionally, it was an opportunity for him to explore more traditional jazz influenced song writing with melodies and changes. Although not all of the Masada songs reflect this more conventional approach to composing, most seem to fit squarely within the jazz tradition of two repetitions of the melody separated by a solo section. The standards he set for himself were that the songs should be played by any group of instruments, and none of them should exceed three stave lines.
The music also seems to represent a shift in Zorn's relationship to the listener. While much of his earlier projects like Naked City and Spy vs. Spy initially confront the listener, daring them to sit through the performance, Masada is a very appealing project. It seems to be more of a contemplation of issues of Jewish identity and heritage as opposed to an attack on the listener's perception of music. Like many earlier Zorn projects, it contains a political, as well as a musical, message. News For Lulu and The Big Gundown both championed music that Zorn felt had been unfairly ignored by the conventional music establishment. Masada's aggressive and solid sound seems to reflect a new self assertive Jewish identity that seeks to understand the many triumphs and tribulations of the Jewish diaspora over the centuries.
The music is being performed by several Masada groups. The original Masada quartet (John Zorn: alto sax, Dave Douglas: trump...
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Buy MASADA Music


SanhedrinSanhedrin
Tzadik 2005
Audio CD$22.48
$18.23 (used)
Live in MiddelheimLive in Middelheim
Tzadik 1999
Audio CD$9.04
$8.00 (used)
50th Birthday Celebration 750th Birthday Celebration 7
Tzadik 2004
Audio CD$9.27
$8.88 (used)
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MASADA discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

MASADA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.79 | 10 ratings
Masada 1: Alef
1994
3.33 | 3 ratings
Masada 2: Beit
1995
3.92 | 6 ratings
Masada 3: Gimel
1995
2.14 | 3 ratings
Masada 5: Hei
1995
2.75 | 4 ratings
Masada 6: Vav
1995
3.00 | 1 ratings
Masada 7: Zayin
1996
3.67 | 3 ratings
Masada 8: Het
1997
3.00 | 1 ratings
Masada 9: Tet
1998
3.95 | 2 ratings
Masada 10: Yod
1998
3.00 | 2 ratings
The Unknown Masada
2003
0.00 | 0 ratings
Masada Anniversary Edition Vol. 2: Voices in the Wilderness
2003
4.00 | 2 ratings
Masada Anniversary Edition Vol. 1: Masada Guitars
2003
4.73 | 2 ratings
Masada Anniversary Edition Vol. 4: Masada Recital
2004
3.04 | 5 ratings
Astaroth: Book Of Angels Volume 1 (Jamie Saft Trio)
2005
3.00 | 2 ratings
Masada Anniversary Edition Vol. 5: Masada Rock (Rashahim)
2005
3.00 | 2 ratings
Malphas: Book Of Angels Volume 3 (Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier)
2006
4.00 | 3 ratings
Orobas: Book Of Angels Volume 4 (Koby Israelite)
2006
3.88 | 5 ratings
Balan: Book Of Angels Volume 5 (The Cracow Klezmer Band)
2006
2.00 | 1 ratings
Moloch: Book Of Angels Volume 6 (Uri Caine)
2006
3.95 | 3 ratings
Asmodeus: Book of Angels Volume 7 (Marc Ribot)
2007
4.00 | 2 ratings
Volac: Book of Angels Volume 8 (Erik Friedlander)
2007
3.22 | 4 ratings
Stolas: The Book of Angels, Vol. 12 (Masada Quintet feat. Joe Lovano)
2009
3.00 | 3 ratings
Mycale: The Book of Angels Volume 13
2010
3.90 | 12 ratings
Ipos: The Book Of Angels Volume 14 (The Dreamers)
2010
4.00 | 3 ratings
Baal: The Book Of Angels Volume 15 (Ben Goldberg Quartet )
2010
3.21 | 5 ratings
Caim: The Book of Angels Volume 17
2011
0.00 | 0 ratings
Pruflas: The Book of Angels Volume 18 (David Krakauer)
2012
4.00 | 1 ratings
Abraxas: The Book Of Angels Volume 19 (Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz)
2012

MASADA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 2 ratings
John Zorn / Masada Live
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Masada-Live in Taipei 1995
1998
5.00 | 1 ratings
Masada - Live in Jerusalem 1994
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Masada-Live in Middleheim 1999
1999
5.00 | 1 ratings
Live in Sevilla
2000
4.67 | 3 ratings
Live at Tonic (Masada)
2001
0.00 | 0 ratings
First Live 1993
2002
3.50 | 2 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 7: Masada
2004

MASADA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Masada Live At Tonic 1999 (Antonio Ferrera)
2004

MASADA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Sanhedrin: Masada 1994-1997 (Unreleased Studio Recordings)
2005

MASADA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Masada 4: Dalet
1995

MASADA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Baal: The Book Of Angels Volume 15 (Ben Goldberg Quartet ) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2010
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Baal: The Book Of Angels Volume 15 (Ben Goldberg Quartet )
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars After West Coast clarinetist Ben Goldberg in 2009 reformed his old project New Klezmer Trio (with drummer Kenny Wollesen and acoustic bassist Greg Cohen) for his new album, the question when he will touch Zorn's material for his another release became just a question of time. Both Wollensen and Cohen are long time Zorn's collaborators, so no strange their just next release is based on Zorn's Masada material.

Luckily "Baal.." was recorded by quartet, not trio - fourth member this time is NY downtown based pianist Jamie Saft. He added plenty of melodic and rhythmic piano elements to album's music what in combination with strong Zorn's compositions made album really better.

When listening every new Masada's Book Of Angels every new release I believe one could expect to hear almost always quality if a bit predictable mix of klezmer and free-jazz.This album is not an exemption: soulful and melodic klezmer is mixed with free improvs almost 50/50 and the result is predictably attractive. Possibly main moment which makes this release more interesting is Goldberg is one of leading clarinet player nowadays (ok, there are not too many of them on jazz scene), so even more or less know music sound different and more unusual.

In all - not masterpiece,but one more strong Masada's Book Of Angels series' release. My rating is 3,5.

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 Caim: The Book of Angels Volume 17 by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.21 | 5 ratings

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Caim: The Book of Angels Volume 17
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista-led NY downtown-based quartet plays John Zorn composed,produced (and released on his Tzadik Records) compositions.

Music is based on Eastern European Jewish folk (klezmer) or it's modern free-jazz flavored version,for years promoted by John Zorn as Masada's Book.Possibly, most interesting moment of all album's music is how organically klezmer roots are melted in Brazil percussion rhythms and how attractive can sound such exotic mix of acoustic Middle East instruments as oud,Latin percussion and jazzy piano/pump organ.

Not revolutionary album, it has many pleasant and beautiful moments on it. World music's legacy with doze of jazz and scent of NY downtown.

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 Astaroth: Book Of Angels Volume 1 (Jamie Saft Trio) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.04 | 5 ratings

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Astaroth: Book Of Angels Volume 1 (Jamie Saft Trio)
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars This album opens long and very diverse Masada's Book of Angels series. Piano man Jamie Saft is regular John Zorn's collaborator on different projects, here he plays with own full- acoustic jazz trio (with two other musicians,collaborating with Zorn - bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Ben Perowsky.

Music on this album is very melodic, a bit melancholic jazz - from post bop to contemporary , heavily based on Masada's klezmer tunes. Another element you can easily recognise in this album's music is contemporary music. Well balanced between "serious" and "attractive", this album's compositions present great example of modern jazz. All musicians are extremely competent,and Saft's piano is just excellent!

Great release for jazz lovers, this album lacks adventure - very professional and not boring at all, it sounds too safe for music, associated with John Zorn. And a bit too comfortable.

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 Stolas: The Book of Angels, Vol. 12 (Masada Quintet feat. Joe Lovano) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.22 | 4 ratings

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Stolas: The Book of Angels, Vol. 12 (Masada Quintet feat. Joe Lovano)
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Masada's Book Two - release of so-called Masada Quintet (classic Masada plus pianist Uri Cane) and Joe Lovano as guest.

Usually I wait every new Masada's release because you never know, what version of klezmer - jazz will you find on each. Happily, often every such release is pleasant surprise. Don't want to say "Stolas" is unpleasant - great usually piano-less Masada's quartet plays there with pianist and additional sax player (in fact - not additional, but just another, because Zorn himself plays on one song only).

But - I wasn't pleasantly surprised this time at all. Usual klezmer based jazz, but in form of quite conservative bop/cool jazz/post-bop. With nice acoustic piano, melancholic sax and all other genre's attributes. Pleasant acoustic music, but didn't I hear it hundred times before?

Possibly this release is oriented more to avant-jazz haters, with its openly conservative direction? Maybe yes. But as a result we have average vintage klezmer-based album without sparks at all. Not bad but ... let say a bit boring. Zorn himself,Tzadik label and some more artists released endless amount of klezmer based music during last 20 years. Do we need one more standard album of this genre?

Still nice listening for more conservative fans of early modern jazz though.

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 Balan: Book Of Angels Volume 5 (The Cracow Klezmer Band) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.88 | 5 ratings

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Balan: Book Of Angels Volume 5 (The Cracow Klezmer Band)
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Everyone familiar with Masada's Book of Angels series know, that all releases are different, and it's often difficult to describe music, recorded on one or another of them.

Balan, recorded by Cracow Klezmer Band, is one of most difficult to be described. Not because music is complex or very unusual there,more because all difference is in muances and atmosphere.

All klezmer-avant movement grew up from NY downtown, and Zorn and his Tzadik label gave us the possibility to listen very unusual versions of Jewish folk rooted free jazz/avant music. In that sense there is not such a big difference with this release - you will find one more version of klezmer based music.

Main difference (at least for me) is that musicians there are from one of a few place, where klezmer lived as day to day folk music, from one of historical Jewish culture capitol - Krakow. So, returning back to roots in some sense,

I was born and grew up in another biggest center of Jewish world culture - Wilno, and perfectly remember Jewish families living in neighborhood. In fact, all my childhood was spent between them, No, I never heard klezmer played as folk music in my childhood, but I perfectly remember that specific atmosphere, Jewish culture and everyday life in place,where lived their mothers and grandmothers. Klezmer iz organic musical component of their live and character - melancholic, emotional, funny,sad...

Music,played by Cracow Klezmer band is too chamber to be accepted as original Yiddish folklore, too academic and too ... avantgarde. But possibly because their music was born right on its roots, it has some very natural, very authentic feeling.

Bayan (kind Eastern European accordion with buttons instead of keys on right side),violin, acoustic bass, percussion and strange wordless vocals. Plus strings quartet as guests. Music sounds quite refined ,sometimes almost academic, but every second of it is full of that indescribable soulful feeling you can hardly find in overseas klezmer sound.

Far not most experimental or avant, this music attracts more by its atmosphere and emotional level. Must have for everyone interested in klezmer avant roots and klezmer as cultural phenomena in general.

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 Asmodeus: Book of Angels Volume 7 (Marc Ribot) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.95 | 3 ratings

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Asmodeus: Book of Angels Volume 7 (Marc Ribot)
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars John Zorn's Masada is a long lasting free jazz and klezmer mix based project. Some like their first series (original Masada albums, John Zorn & Co. original line up and NY downtown free jazz+ klezmer emotional tunes), many afraid of too big influence of avant jazz on later recordings (played by different musicians, but based on Masada's material).

I agree there is some truth in such opinion, especially for newcomers. Happily, this excellent avant guitarist Marc Ribot album is different. Being one of Masada Book Two (Book Of Angels) release, this music has its roots in Masada. But in fact, you can listen there avant power trio (with great bassist Trevor Dunn on board), playing electrified jazz fusion,very close to your usual jazz rock.

Marc Ribot's guitar is heavy, screaming and scratching, often close to shredding, but melodic and melancholic Masada tunes give to all music structure and compositional finishing. Main accent is put on atmosphere, emotions, not on technical superiority, so music is very alive and attractive. There are only few real "free jazz" moments, and in whole this album could really be listen by wide auditory - from heavy instrumental rock fans to electrified jazz rock lovers to NY downtown sound maniacs.

Really recommended! For many fans it could be really accessible and attractive step to avant territory without big risk to be disappointed!

My rating is 4+!

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 Masada 3: Gimel by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.92 | 6 ratings

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Masada 3: Gimel
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Third John Zorn's classic Masada album is a great one. Nor is it very different from previous two, but there the music became that essential mix of free jazz and klezmer all Masada's are so well-known. Usual collaborators team (Dave Douglas / trumpet,Greg Cohen / bass,Joey Baron / drums) besides John Zorn on trumpet shows there all the best they could play. Jewish folk melodies (if someone doesn't heard what the klezmer is just imagine hot mix of Eastern European and Balkan folk ,slightly scented with Middle East sounds) are great raw material for excellent free jazz improvisations of excellent jazz musicians. Two trumpets interplays sound as explosions on the back-up support from rhythm section (which is a source of excellent improvs by itself).

John Zorn's Masada has a decades of own history, which continues nowadays. It is perfect entry place to newcomers to Zorn's music and to klezmer jazz as well. Very recommended for everyone interested in world free jazz amalgam. For those familiar with other classic Masada's albums this one is not very different, even if could be placed between best of them.

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 Ipos: The Book Of Angels Volume 14 (The Dreamers) by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.90 | 12 ratings

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Ipos: The Book Of Angels Volume 14 (The Dreamers)
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I waited for this album from its very first days of release, and now I am listening to it. Yes, it is what I expected: electric band of Zorn's most regular collaborator's play Masada variations, mixing them with some 60-s movies soundtrack melodies.

Most of all this album attracts me by rare possibility to hear Masada -based real electric guitar based fusion. Guitarist Marc Ribot is this album's hero for sure. Just imagine airy, vintage sound recordings full of electric guitar soloing, old keyboards, vibraphone - and all these machinery are used to play Middle East and Eastern European (or klezmer, what is possibly more correct) tunes based melancholic, even nostalgic music.

A bit minimalistic, this music will catch you not by its technique, but by unbelievable atmosphere you didn't hear by years.

In whole - Zorn's best team is playing simple and genial music, possibly their best work for years. It's only a bit pity - Zorn's trumpet could add that small ingredient this music needs to be named masterpiece.

With no doubt - 4+.

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 Mycale: The Book of Angels Volume 13 by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Mycale: The Book of Angels Volume 13
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars At the end of year 2009 John Zorn announced he will record 12 (!) new albums during 2010,one every month. Today is just very first days of March,2010, but three his albums are released yet, so possibly he will fulfil his announcement.

Mycale is very first Zorn/Masada album of 2010, released on "The Book of Angels" series. I listened it with double high interest ( possibly, it will show, what will happens during this year with Zorn's music, all these 12 albums, you know...). And as very often with Zorn's releases, I was pleasantly surprised. This work is not just another usual klezmer-free jazz Masada variation ( great music, but quite deeply explored by Zorn till now).

This album is minimalistic VOCALS ONLY (!) work, based on klezmer tradition! Four great female vocalists sing Masada -rooted songs a-capella ! All vocalists are quite respectful singers itself, but this vocal quartet sounds excellent. I hardly can remember any other vocals- only album there on PA (for sure, I can miss something). The nearest one is almost vocals only Diamanda Galas debut work (but she uses some electronic noises and loops there).

Israeli born AYELET ROSE GOTTLIEB is collaborated with Zorn's Tzadik records from 2006 (where her second CD was released). She composes and performs improvisation music, beside of own project works for theatres music as well. BASYA SCHECHTER is a leader of her own band, Pharaoh's Daughter , swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrahi and Sephardic folk-rock, and spiritual styling filtered through percussion, flute, strings and electronics. Argentina-born jazz-singer SOFIA REI KOUTSOVITIS sung with Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra ,John Scofield and many others. Moroccan French world fusion singer MALIKA ZARRA is a hot name in clubs around Europe with her elegant mix of Berber folk, French pop and lounge jazz.

Eleven short songs show excellent combination of voices, folky, oriental, klezmer and jazzy tunes. Overall, I can name that music a-capella folk world recording. The album is short, and you will listen it with a pleasure! Strong and interesting beginning of 2010, let's wait what will be next Zorn's surprise.

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 Mycale: The Book of Angels Volume 13 by MASADA album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Mycale: The Book of Angels Volume 13
Masada RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Ricochet
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Everything is set for the John Zorn Year in Music, but it all depends on the artistic triumph of the 12 albums the American composer is planning for 2010, one for each month. Whether or not it will be that way, the news is still seriously thrilling, especially for connoisseurs. I wonder instead if the idea itself, however surprising, is in any way radical, coming from such a prolific artist. There's a serious dose of showing off in his current ambition, lacking probably the most a no-matter-how-risky (even for a serial thinker like Zorn) inter-conceptuality between the 12 works. We can rather say that it's a record number of releases (for Zorn, not for Tzadik as well), either continuations of already matured series, either having to do with relatively new conceptual resolutions. But this thing has been going on for more than a decade anyway.

The first album from the big sequence (Mycale: Book Of Angels Vol.13) has its own share of "junk trivia", easy to be remarked with an observant eye. Compared to the 12 volumes of the original Masada project, this one now stretches further in an indeed unforseen way, strengthening the belief (one confirmed a long time ago, anyhow) that klezmer has become more than just a second great musical and compositional orientation for John Zorn. But the most interesting detail has to be the novel vocal approach (the album being introduced to us as being in an exquisite "a cappella" spirit) of a form of music that, until now, has been the subject of numerous instrumental interpretations and visions, harmonised in jazz, experimental, chamber music or, undeviatingly, klezmer. Even on the bigger scale, what we have here is a pretty notable and rare comprehensive example of vocal Zorn. Beyond any meaning of comparison, I don't believe the intention of this vocal project can be likened with precursor traditions, such as collages of voices, the "spoken words" manner (in the memorable Spillane or elsewhere), the incantations from the slightly-daemonic oriental New Traditions In East Asian Bars, the occult studies at the crossroad of the 90s with the 00s, or, to exhaust all instances with the most extreme case of all, the hardcore katharsis practiced by Patton or Eye, as well as several other directions, mostly experimental but never concretely imposing. At least through its presentation, Mycale is alludingly promising and hard to neglect.

After all, what could be more appealing in this album? Certainly not so much the new Zorn collection item itself, as perhaps his most intimate involvement in conceiving a Book Of Angels album, and certainly not so much the new slice of cult fantasy and contemporary stilistic klezmer, as a sensible motion outside the center of such a sphere. John Brackett described klezmer as one of the traditions Zorn looked into based on a principle of approaching the rarely-approached. Hereon, just like the instrumental interpretations off the previous album didn't necessarily reflect "the Masada klezmer", but each of the artists' class, neither is the vocal music off Mycale exclusively klezmer-related, but tends to go instead with a subtly richer pallette. But the above-mentioned principle does mount, at least concerning the folklore hand-picked by Zorn for this work, and valiantly describes the music, at least until everything slips into something lighter, or the quartet's performance places itself above the music or the style.

We mustn't expect something original from the composer. As far as the musical experience goes, it is pleasant enough for the simple music fan, but also with moderate enough valences, reduced to vocal style and accents, to make the initiated find it hard to believe that they're listening to something truly special (a curse I sadly think it hits every volume, in comparison with the much more tonic Masada model recordings). Regardless how much a cappella, I can't feel classical choral sustenance at all, but rather a twice between folk (with fragments from Pessoa sounding rather more expressive than the ones of a more esoteric origin) and vocal jazz. The studio effect is austere; there's also little to talk about improvisations or other means of evading out of form. Imitating here, for 4 voices, typical Masadian compositions written so many times for instruments, the music has a structural profile, revealing both the individuality of each voice (everything tending to always start from a rhythmic foundation, on which the solistic melodicity blossoms soon after) and the unitary if variable success of the dialogues born between them (I can't feel harmony elsewhere but in the choruses, the rest dealing with something else). Occasionally, such details are more discrete, musicality prevailing, yet I can't deny that several more such moments would have been desirable.

Vocal art in a never presented before form by John Zorn, a new and fresh musical variation of the Masada canon, an equally fine debut for a new decade in the artist's career, a reasonably styled album or just pleasant-proned music. At least one of these reflects what it's all about in Mycale.

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Thanks to snobb for the artist addition.

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