Masada

Masada, Vol. 7: Zayin

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Masada's seventh volume sounds almost like an odds-and-sods collection. It's a more fragmentary and disparate disc that doesn't have much musical middle ground -- the extremes between the group's atonal free improv bursts and its more melodic or atmospheric pieces are very pronounced. "Shevet" has a more overt klezmer influence and almost timbales tones from Joey Baron, while the segmented "Hath-Arob" is very Ornette Coleman-like before breaking down into free-blow sections. If the John Zorn-Dave Douglas exchanges seem a little more measured than usual at first, their dialogue continues nicely on "Mashlav"; it's Baron, using muted drums more than his customary cymbal clicks, who provides the novel element. But then "Shamor" alternates impressionistic, melodic wisps with outside blasts and "Bacharach" tosses off 80 old-timey, atypically sunny seconds as a prelude to "Otiot," a three-and-a-half-minute bass feature for Greg Cohen. The fragmentary "Nevuah" lacks the frantic frenzy of most of Masada's discs and the atmospheric "Kedem" never changes its low-key character over nearly ten minutes. The last three tracks are another mixed bag, and truthfully it's hard to get a handle on Masada, Vol. 7: Zayin. The music flies all over the map and it sounds like Masada is just wrapping up loose ends or spewing out material based on Zorn's concepts that could have stayed out in the woodshed. Although it's good to hear the group taking some different roads, this is a minor entry in its catalog.

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