John Zorn: Masada Tet

With its keen balance between the form and freedom, cogent solos, and forward momentum, John Zorn’s Masada series is without a doubt his most musically sound and rewarding output of this decade. On Tet, Zorn and his cohorts continue to successfully juxtapose Jewish folk melodies with modal grooves and harmelodic labyrinths.

Both trumpeter Dave Douglas and Zorn forge a musical synergy that recalls the glory days of Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, especially on the hypnotic “Chayah.” Bassist Greg Cohen grounds the tranquil compositions with both melodic inventiveness and rhythmic ingenuity while also propelling riotous pieces like “Karet” with fleeting abandonment. As always, Joey Baron is the perfect spark plug for any setting Zorn throws out. On “Chayah,” Baron lays a roiling groove on the toms while Zorn and Douglas deliver floating melodic statements.

Yes, the Masada series may amount to Zorn’s most conservative statements, but it also illuminates his musicality with crystalline lucidity.