John Zorn has been writing and recording "mystical" compostions that run alongside his second Masada book since the 21st century began. Most recently, these compostions have been gathered on albums such as In Search of the Miraculous, Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days, At the Gates of Paradise, the Gnostic Preludes: Music of Splendor, and Vision In Blakelight. The Concealed is addition to that body of work with a compelling twist. Zorn pairs the Nova Quartet (John Medeski, piano; Kenny Wollesen, vibes; Trevor Dunn, bass; Joey Barron, drums) with cellist Erik Friedlander and violinist Mark Feldman. The composer first used this approach on the Bar Kokbha recording (1996), where he juxtaposed the Masada group with these same string players. As on that he recording, he employs various combinations of players in duos, trios, quartets and as a sextet. The musical sources are many: klezmer and Sephardic folk, Spanish music, modern jazz, Zorn's own brand of exotica and modern classical music to name a few. While various musical roots are easily identifiable, they are seamlessly and expansively melded with others in Zorn's encyclopedic musical language. "Persepolis" finds Wollesen's vibes playing a minor key vamp up front, supported by bass, drums and Medeski's piano finding a melody that suggests the influence of Vince Guaraldi with a MIddle Eastern twist. "Kavanah" features Dunn with Friedlander and Feldman, winding around a complex lyric that is equal parts Middle Eastern mode, avant jazz and vanguard classical. Feldman's solo is a set highlight. Medeski plays solo on "the Way of the Sly Man," a tune that joins together stride piano blues, ragtime, klezmer and Ravel. "A Portrait Of Moses Cordovero," (a tribute to one of Kaballah's founding fathers) melds Sephardic folk music, flamenco and 21st century postbop. Speaking of the latter, check the swinging closer, "Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am,'" for a dizzying array of interwoven musics, rhythmic invention and complex harmonic interplay. These are formal compostions, played with a light and spacious touch; compelling textures and rhythmic variety add dimension while limited but stunning improvisational acumen is also on display. For its dreamy accessibility and sheer lyricism, the Concealed feels like a recital of sacred songs, rooted in history and layered in mystery, interpreted through Zorn's dual role as composer and medium.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek