Masada

Masada, Vol. 8: Het

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    8
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Recorded four months after the fragmented loose ends of Masada, Vol. 7: Zayin, Masada seems to be settling into a new -- perhaps mature or more conventional -- phase with Masada, Vol. 8: Het. The frantic frenzy that drove its early releases is largely reined in, a couple of actual ballads sneak in the repertoire, and there are some solos by John Zorn or Dave Douglas with just the rhythm section instead of their usual countermelody exchanges. "Shechem" opens with very loose-limbed, Ornette Coleman-influenced free bop, with the two horns playing off Joey Baron's light tom-tom touch before Zorn takes a very melodic, flowing soloing on his own until organically handing it off to Douglas. Baron gets some solo space and the 11-minute piece even employs the common jazz device of trading fours, even if they're so extended it's more like trading eights. Greg Cohen has to wait for his bass solo minutes on "Kodashim" and among the leapfrogging melodies of the closing "Amarim." "Elijah" is an appealing, open-ended ballad with meandering dual melodies, and Masada drops the pace again on the straighter ballad "Mochim," with Douglas waxing muted and Zorn yearning in their statements. The slinky, mid-tempo "Ne'eman" is full of jazz noir surprises with nice crescendo climaxes in the melody and Zorn gets almost Pink Panther-ish in his phrases. And Masada springs its usual complement of mid-song change-ups -- the vibrant "Abed-Nego" turns contemplative near the end, while the mid-tempo melody of "Tohorot" picks up intensity as it goes along. Het isn't spectacular Masada full of fireworks, but there's plenty of that around -- this is just a very good, solid disc packed with strong performances and material.

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