John Zorn has long maintained that Masada is more a collection of songs than a band, and he's asked a bunch of friends for their interpretations as part of Masada's tenth anniversary, the first release being Masada Guitars. Those expecting an electric romp through the Masada songbook might be disappointed; Masada Guitars consists entirely of solo, mostly acoustic performances. Preconceptions aside, this is a beautiful album. Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, and Tim Sparks each bring their own voice to these tunes: Sparks with his rich fingerpicking, Ribot coming from his classical guitar background, and Bill Frisell with his unmistakable ethereal tone. The performances are closer to the Circle Maker or Bar Kokhba recordings than the "Masada Band" proper -- beautiful readings, generally without the pyrotechnics the band can produce even on a slower tune. Somewhat surprisingly, it's Frisell who turns in the only remotely "out" material, bringing out his delay to color his tunes and getting into some demented skronk and fun on both "Katzatz" and "Kochot." Sparks' renditions on steel string acoustic sound very similar to his previous Tzadik album, Neshamah. Marc Ribot's playing on what sounds like a nylon-string classical guitar might surprise some folks who are unaware of his classical background (he studied with Frantz Casseus), yet you can still hear elements of his playing style come through. Just as Circle Maker and Bar Kokhba showed a different side to these melodies, so it is with Masada Guitars. With literally dozens of songs in the Masada book and almost as many talented friends, Zorn could be mining these tunes for years to come.
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AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard