Guitar virtuoso Tim Sparks continues to explore music of the Jewish diaspora with Tanz, his second recording for John Zorn's Tzadik label. As opposed to Neshamah, which was strictly solo guitar, Sparks is aided this time by bassist Greg Cohen and percussionist Cyro Baptista. Sparks comes from a classical guitar background more than a fingerpicking folky background, and his virtuosic technique is incredible, but always in service to the music, not merely technique. Cohen's experience as bassist for Masada serves him well here, negotiating some odd time signatures with ease. Cyro Baptista's Brazilian-flavored percussion adds a Latin lilt to the proceedings on many cuts. There are several "traditional klezmer" tunes, written by Naftule Brandwein, but also songs from other areas of the Jewish music tradition. There are a couple from the Jewish-Yemenite tradition, a Judeo-Kurdish tune, and a traditional Balkan-Sephardic track. Sparks' arrangements of this traditional material are as beautiful as his playing is amazing. Cohen and Baptista are perfect accompanists, never cluttering things or obscuring Sparks as the lead voice. Anyone with a passing interest in either Jewish music or fingerpicked guitar should seek out this recording; it's beautiful.
by Sean Westergaard