Rashanim_-_masada_rock_span3
June 2006

Rashanim
Masada Rock
Tzadik

It seems like most jazz musicians come to hate capitalism as a matter of course. That doesn’t seem to be the case with contrarian John Zorn. The Ray Kroc of the New York City experimental set continues to brand like a Madison Avenue executive on speed. The latest franchise in his expanding Masada universe is a line of 10th-anniversary repertory projects. The fifth volume, Masada Rock, features Jon Madof’s guitar trio, Rashanim, rocking out on the Masada songbook.

Masada plus rock it isn’t, really. Madof includes plenty of rock but does go to some lengths to diversify the set. The trio does nothing earth shattering with the material, but apart from the slightly silly “Shadrakh,” a selfconsciously exotic, Spanish-guitar-and-handpercussion number, Masada Rock is listenable and increasingly fun as it goes along. Guitarist Marc Ribot guests on two tunes, somewhat anonymously, but Ribot’s spacious, reverbed take on Zorn’s music clearly influenced a few performances here. Others benefit from Madof’s creative use of slide guitar, oud and greaseball rockabilly twang.

At their best, however, Madof and his trio mates, Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz on bass and Mathias Künzli on drums, absolutely pulverize Zorn’s melodies with fist-pumping punk rock (“Arad”) and even, believe it or not, menacing sludge metal worthy of OzzFest (“Zemanim”). That’s no small compliment.

Originally published in June 2006
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