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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Books of Angels

For completeness' sake, here are two more valuable albums in Tzadik's Book Of Angels series.

Ben Goldberg Quartet : Baal: The Book Of Angels vol. 15 (Tzadik, 2010) ***½

For the fans of the clarinet, here is again one to listen to with joy for this quartet led by Ben Goldberg, here in the company of Jamie Saft on piano, Kenny Wollesen on drums and Greg Cohen on bass. The music is familiar of course : Zorn's klezmer tunes full of jazzy harmonies and rhythms, but to the credit of the band, what they do with the material is a real pleasure as you might expect, sometimes driving the tunes into wilder territory, with especially Goldberg being really inspired in giving the music a more dramatic, somewhat theatrical edge, which fits well in the overall context of the series. Especially the superfast but short "Lahash" is a real treat unison playing going haywire without safety net, yet falling back into its original tune without blinking. But the four musicians also demonstrate their emotional power on the long "Requel".

Even if the whole series is becoming a little too programmatic, it's still great musical fun.

Masada String Trio : Haborym : The Book Of Angels Vol. 16 (Tzadik, 2010) ****½

The Masada String Trio remains one of my favorite bands. Mark Feldman on violin, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Greg Cohen on bass, are the perfect line-up to give the Masada song book music its true value : highly rhythmic chamber music, with the strings reflecting the whole world of melancholy agony and sadness of the Jewish and eastern European musical tradition. It is equally full of drama and sweet undertones, full of passion and despair. And there are even moments of fun, even joy - despite the series' dark theme, as on "Techial".

Knowing that Zorn composes albums like this one in a few hours, you wonder how much of the music is the result of the musicians' contribution to some sketchy tunes and harmonic directions. Whatever the reality is, the interplay between all three virtusosi is stunning, bringing their incredibly broad bag of musical genres and styles together into a great mixture that can shift as easily from the classical over jazz to folk music and boundary-breaking new music, sometimes all in one track, as in "Bat Qol". The basic concept may be Zorn's, but the end result is almost entirely to be attributed to these three musicians who have made and still make their unique genre a wonderful feast for the ears.

Watch a recent performance of the trio in France for Book Of Angels, Vol. 2

© stef


Anonymous said...

The Masada Book Two is some of the best stuff out on Tzadik lately.


Mus14 said...

The Ben Goldberg Quartet is terrific. I have actually listened to them. Ben Goldberg studied clarinet with some good teachers. He has also combined forces with Joshua Redman.