Lucifer: The Book of Angels, Vol. 10by Bar Kokhba
Over the years, John Zorn has offered up more projects than one can easily keep track of and you can find both passionate advocates and passionate detractors for almost every one of them. Every one, except perhaps Bar Kokhba. It's the Masada String Trio (Mark Feldman, Erik Friedlander, and Greg Cohen) augmented by Marc Ribot (guitar), Joey Baron (drums), and Cyro Baptista (percussion). Their albums have all been exquisite and their release in the Zorn 50th Birthday series was perhaps the best of that series. Here they are with their first studio recording in over a decade, and their first of Zorn's Masada: Book Two material. Honestly, with this material and these players, you just can't go wrong. There are highlights aplenty, starting with Ribot and Baptistsa on the opening track. Friedlander and Feldman shine on both "Dalquiel" and "Quelamia." Joey Baron tears it up on "Gediel" and does some great brushwork on "Azbugah." The playing all the way around is just fantastic. You could even play this album for your grandmother, something you can't say about much of the rest of the Zorn catalog. Whether you like all his projects or not, John Zorn's output has been of a consistently high quality. Lucifer: Book of Angels, Vol. 10 is among the finest offerings in his discography, and a very accessible one at that.
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As appropriate as a blazing yellow cover is for an album titled "Lucifer", this is music of a different color altogether. I'm aware of the cliche, but this combination of musicians has a distinctly crimson tone to it. Their passion for the music is obvious; such as the way the violin snakes its way around the bassline and percussion, stopping every now and then for a rapturous little solo only to drag the rest of the group into the same frenzy. It is definitely a warm collection of music, surprisingly inviting for a John Zorn release. But it's deceptively accessible- I'm surprised that the titles of the albums in this Masada book haven't come up more frequently in reviews (maybe I'm just not looking in the right places). Every entry in the "Book of Angels" series is named after a demon, prince of hell, or guardian of some infernal gate. Yet the music is anything but "scary". In fact, most of it is strikingly beautiful. Sure, each album has its jagged edge here and there, but it just helps to provide proper contrast. Maybe that's the point- dispelling a stigma against things not normally seen as being palatable by the public. If you can change the view and expose these thorny, impish namesakes as being something worthwhile and beautiful, imagine what else can be done? But soapbox time is over. This is simply a fantastic album- the best in the "Book of Angels" catalogue so far, I believe.