USA for composer / various countries for performers and arrangers, 2018, avant-garde jazz / klezmer / jazz-rock / nueva canción latinoamericana / brutal prog / jazz fusion / Arabic jazz / exotica / chamber jazz / avant-garde metal / experimental big band / progressive metal / experimental rock

John ZornThe Book Beri’ah

Out of the 11 “parts” of this project, I have kept eight. Those three missing parts are just not my thing, but that’s okay. It’s not like I’m cutting tracks. I’m removing whole sections–pretty much albums–done by different artists. Anyway, this isn’t an album. It’s a compendium of music bound together like a massive tome. Obviously not something one is going to listen to in a single sitting. All this stuff is composed by John Zorn but performed by the following:

So, chapter one is Keter, a nueva canción latinoamericana and klezmer work by Sofía Rei & JC Maillard. This is a strange and intoxicating mix of disparate influences blended expertly together. Sometimes a dance through a dream, sometimes an off-balanced tip-toeing, especially with the layered vocal sampling.

Chapter three, Binah, is experimental big band by Spike Orchestra. It has all the meandering, dirty brass joy you’d expect from that genre tag.

Chapter four is Chesed, free improvisation by Julian Lage & Gyan Riley. Sophisticated, complicated acoustic guitar work that sometimes doesn’t sound improvisational at all, but then the rulebook gets thrown out the window and everything breaks down so wonderfully.

Chapter six, Tiferet, is more klezmer, this time done by a Mexican band known as Klezmerson. The gypsy punk feeling of this mixed with some pronounced Latin rhythms doesn’t fail to get me moving.

Chapter seven is Netzach, chamber jazz performed by Gnostic Trio. The vibraphone and harp are a wonderful combination, giving the music a dreamlike quality. There are some really beautiful shimmering guitar moments here. This is my favorite of the bunch.

Chapter eight is Hod, jazz-rock performed by Zion80. Zorn himself pops onto this album to play saxophone. This one feels like it’s the most fun to have performed. A real party atmosphere. Amid all those heavy metal guitars the saxophone really sounds like it’s crying for help, like it’s been surrounded and cannot escape.

Chapter nine, Yesod, is a beautiful jazz-fusion garden of delights performed by Banquet of the Spirits. Their handling of the material is wild and tribal at times as well as embracing the serenity of open, minimal soundscapes. Wonderful.

Chapter ten is Malkhut, an experimental rock exploration by Secret Chiefs 3 with all the technical playfulness of an avant-prog romp. Sometimes this one has a kind of ineffable open-road feel to the guitars.

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