Zion 80 / Adramelech: The book of angels, vol. 22

book of angels get pretty cursive instead of the usual dark faux-mystic images

Zion 80 / Adramelech:
The book of angels, vol 22
Tzadik, #8319, 2014

CD/MP3s available via Tzadik Records.

The first Zion 80 release was a major change for jazz guitarist and Tzadik recording artist Jon Madof. In it, he took works by Shlomo Carlebach, fused them with a Fela Kuti-inspired AfroBeat, and rocked out. The large brass band that comprises Zion 80 used those simple melodies as a chance to soar and improvise. Here, on the band's second outing, tackling works by John Zorn, everything ratchets up a notch. As much as I loved that first album, this is the music I was listening for: the complex changes fueling a tight, energetic horn section that seems to be able to swivel into time changes and rhythm changeups on a dime. The band has moved beyond that initial inspiration in this recording. Here, Jon Madof works with a larger palette with which to arrange deep, thoughtful, moving music.

From the opening attack of "Araziel," the band never lets up. As Madof showed when he was recording with his trio, the Rashanim, his guitar playing is extraordinarily sensitive. Here he is surrounded by among the best of New York's downtown jazz scene, from familiar veterans like Frank London and Greg Wall, to newbies like Zach Mayer (perhaps not coincidentally a graduate of the KlezKamp and KlezKanada tutelage of some of those self-same veterans). And where the first Zion 80 recording was a tribute to Fela, with its insistent horns and polyrhythmic beats (driving me back to my Africa 70 LPs) and Shlomo Carlebach, here the band is pushing new limits. At times, as on "Metatron" there is this amazing fusion of AfroPop with Zorn's "Naked City." This is complex jazz, polyrhythmically percussive, driven by an intricate, amazing big (for these times) ensemble. It's great, although it isn't dance music any more (unless you see them live, in which case you'll be like the rest of us, on your feet and moving).

I saw this band perform at Ashkenaz 2014, where they headlined on Sunday night at the major stage. It was one of the highlights of a great festival. You can capture a bit of that magic by getting your own copy of this recording.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 12 October 2014.

Personnel this recording:
Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz: Bass
Matt Darriau: Alto Sax, Kaval, Clarinet
Yoshie Fruchter: Guitar
Frank London: Trumpet
Jessica Lurie: Bari Sax, Flute
Jon Madof: GuitarĀ­
Brian Marsella: Keyboard
Greg Wall: Tenor Sax
Yuval Lion: Drums
Zach Mayer: Bari Sax
Mauro Refosco: Percussion
Marlon Sobol: Percussion

Song Titles

  1. Araziel 7:15
  2. Sheviel 5:49
  3. Metatron 9:06
  4. Shamdan 7:17
  5. Kenunit 10:37
  6. Caila 4:22
  7. Lelahiah 6:01
  8. Nehinah 5:56

All music from John Zorn's "Book of Angels," arranged by Jon Madof.

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