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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Medeski, Martin & Wood - Zaebos (Tzadik, 2008) ***½

Is it excellent? Hmm, not really. Is it bad? Hmm, not really. I would say that it's just good. True, I'm a great fan of the Book Of Angels series, and I must admit that MMW is not really my style. I've seen them perform, and their musicianship is beyond question. I have several of their records, but I lost interest with "The Dropper", and although they were creative enough to create their own substyle of iconoclastic rock-jazz funky organ trio, they were kind of stuck in it, trying to wriggle out of their self-created format, but not really successfully, I think. Some tunes are brilliant, such as "Malach Ha-Sopher", which is dark, with a bass clarinet (?) carrying the melody, or "Sefrial", on which Medeski demonstrates some unusual restraint, creating a bluesy klezmer melody out of single notes instead of creating his usual high energy avalanches of multiple keyboard swoops, and this to great effect. "Asaliah" is great too, maybe because it's slow too, and creating the kind of kabbalistic darkness and dread, sauced with a tinge of melancholy that is the hallmark of the Book Of Angels series. Medeski switches to piano on some tracks, and that doesn't quite work as well as Jamie Saft's approach to the "Book". Other tracks are just plain uninteresting, such as "Chafriel", on wich the keyboard plays around the usual klezmer scale with the drums sounding awfully cheap, despite Martin's obvious skills. I think MMW has done better things than this, and if you're new to the "Book Of Angels" series, there are other albums which are clearly of a much higher level, but it's OK, it has its great moments, but that's about it. Considering that Zaebos is the demon, the grand count of the infernal regions, half human, half crocodile, who governs the 30 legions of spirits, what menace and doom could have been conveyed here, if only there was a little more unity and coherence ...

Listen to

© stef


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, Stef!
You didn't make the decision whether it's worth it easier, though :P