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As part of the tenth anniversary celebration of his composition project “The Masada Songbook,” John Zorn’s Tzadik records released a gem of an album called Masada Guitars. Featuring Marc Ribot, Tim Sparks, and Bill Frisell, this album contains over an hour of beautiful guitar music–some acoustic, some electric; some dry, some soaked with echo and reverb effects.
The entire album is comprised of songs only taken from the Masada songbooks, which began when John Zorn challenged himself to write 100 tunes in traditional Jewish music styles. The Masada Songbook has since grown to over 500 compositions, with a wide array of recordings by wildly different ensembles and performers: Mike Patton, Masada, Bar Kokhba Sextet, Masada String Trio, Secret Chiefs 3, Erik Friedlander, Medeski, Martin, & Wood; Electric Masada, and The Dreamers–to name just a few.
It’s a great opportunity to hear the differing styles of three very different guitarists playing music by the same composer. Tim Sparks sounds arranged and polished, with beautiful clean technique; Marc Ribot is bold, rough, and exploratory; Bill Frisell is shimmering, lyrical, and sometimes strange. All are fantastic players, and hearing each in relation to the others makes the experience even more interesting.
Masada Guitars is definitely worth picking up.
- You can preview and get Masada Guitars here. (MP3 Download)
More Masada Book Guitars
If you’re hungry for more, like I was, check out Ipos: Book of Angels Volume 14, which features Marc Ribot in a lead role, shredding up the Masada songbook interpreted as surf rock. Ribot rips it up backed by keys, percussion, and vibraphone in a truly unique band setting.
Still not enough? You may be ready for Electric Masada, a large and powerful improvising band conducted by John Zorn himself to create sonically devastating, one-of-a-kind performances. With two drummers, a percussionist, bass, keyboards, guitar, electronics, and saxophone, this group is not for the faint of heart–and because they play some of the very same tunes as Masada Guitars, it provides an interesting angle on how differently two groups can perform the same sequence of notes.