As a unit, Masada was well-documented in live settings. Despite the ten studio recordings, there have been numerous double live concert outings from the quartet -- John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron -- from all over the world, but until now, there has been scant opportunity to hear how Masada's sound (which came across as completely mature on their first studio date) was born and developed. This set, the band's first ever live meeting at the old Knitting Factory, offers a sonic glimpse into a collective musical language as it was formed and created, before it utterance was even articulate. And indeed, Masada can, in many ways, be called the last "modern" jazz quartet. The sleeve notes call this a "diamond in the rough," but that would have to be from the musicians' point-of-view. To nearly any other jazz listener, the collective will to make this music be is far greater than the quaint sum of any small "errors" made in the heat of the moment. Indeed, those very mistakes add so much drama, color, and pathos to this formulated language, their unwieldiness is embraced by the quartet and moved upon rather than ignored or covered up. Here are seven of John Zorn's compositions that reflect the profound influence of Ornette Coleman, the rabbinical tradition of Judaism, and, as always, the blues as they're sing through the heart of jazz. Zorn finds a way to wind all the lines together and then offers freedom to his bandmates to deepen his notes as they see fit. The result is raw, urgent, moving...even breathtaking in places. For the fanatics who have everything Masada, this is no exception in its necessity. For the curious and cautious, this is a wonderfully accessible place to begin an odyssey.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek