The 19th installment in John Zorn’s Masada Book 2: The Book of Angels is a doozy. As with the rest of the series, these are Zorn pieces given to an extraordinary talent (or set of talents) to perform, re-imagine, or demolish, and acoustic/electric bassist and oudist Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz has done all three with his batch of songs.
Blumenkranz, part of New York’s vibrant “experimental” scene, here performs on the gimbri, a three-stringed Middle Eastern bass lute. He’s essential to the material, which is a hearty dose of Jewish progressive rock, but his collaborators do their best to steal the show.
Kenny Grohowski is an absolute madman behind the drum kit, unleashing maelstroms of double-bass blasts and triplets and frenetic, unyielding drum fills. The guitarists are masters unto themselves — check out Aram Bajakian’s Kef and Eyal Maoz’s Edom if you get the chance — and their intonations are very bit as vital as their technical abilities.
Outside of the “ritualistic Jewish rock” tag that comes with Zorn and his cohorts, the obvious comparison here is one to prog-fusion giants such as Mahavishnu Orchestra. But particularly with the percussion, there’s a much more frantic, metallic, Zach Hill-ish vibe, and Abraxas will appeal to progressive ears new and old.