From its first manic blast, it's clear that Masada, Vol. 10: Yod is going to be one of John Zorn and company's wildest, most confident works. It's also one of the most accessible, though that's hardly a safe recommendation: like all of the Masada series' works, Yod is not a friendly listen. The middle section of the album, though, with its gentle, hypnotic pace, offers a reprieve from the intensity of the other compositions. What continues to impress in this, their tenth release, is the group's relentless energy and the sheer brilliance of their interplay. The incredibly visceral soloing of Zorn and Dave Douglas, the mesmerizing, exotic pulse: all are the trademarks of one of jazz's greatest units, a group practically exploding with talent and ideas.
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.
Recorded four months after the fragmented loose ends of Masada, Vol. 7: Zayin, Masada seems to be settling into a new – perhaps mature or more conventional – phase with Masada, Vol. 8: Het. The frantic frenzy that drove its early releases is largely reined in, a couple of actual ballads sneak in the repertoire, and there are some solos by John Zorn or Dave Douglas with just the rhythm section instead of their usual countermelody exchanges. "Shechem" opens with very loose-limbed, Ornette Coleman-influenced free bop, with the two horns playing off Joey Baron's light tom-tom touch before Zorn takes a very melodic, flowing soloing on his own until organically handing it off to Douglas.