Jazz CD Reviews

Pat Metheny – Tap: John Zorn’s Book Of Angels, Vol. 20 – Nonesuch Records/ Tzadik

Modern jazz master takes a courageous leap.

Published on October 25, 2013

Pat Metheny – Tap: John Zorn’s Book Of Angels, Vol. 20 – Nonesuch Records/ Tzadik 535352-2, 50:30 [5/20/2013] ****:

(Pat Metheny – acoustic guitars, electric guitars, baritone guitar, sitar-guitar, tiples, bass, piano, orchestrionic marimba, orchestra bells, bandoneon, percussion, electronics, flugelhorn; Antonio Sanchez – drums)

Pat Metheny has been a force in jazz for nearly forty years. He came into early prominence as a teenage prodigy of vibraphonist Gary Burton. After playing in Burton’s band, he soon embarked on a solo career as a band leader and composer. Eventually, he worked with keyboardist Lyle Mays, a partnership that lasted 25 years. These projects incorporating post bop, fusion, Brazilian, progressive and contemporary formats. Albums including American Garage, As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, Offramp, Travels and Full Circle revitalized modern jazz, expanding the audience. Metheny has released solo, duet and quartet recordings, working with a diverse assortment of artists, including Chick Corea, Charlie Haden, Joni Mitchell, Bill Frisell, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Jack DeJohnette, John Scofield, Jim Hall and Roy Haynes to name a few. To date, he has earned a staggering 20 Grammys.

Metheny has also made an impact on recording technology. He was one of the first musicians to use the Roland GR-300 Guitar Synthesizer.  He introduced alternative 12-string tunings to jazz, and utilized digital signal processing which contributes to the full, resonant guitar tonality. Custom instruments (including a soprano acoustic guitar, 42-string Pikasso guitar and Ibanez’s PM-100 jazz guitar) have added a cutting edge to his compositions. Additional fluency extends to keyboards, piano, bass, Flugelhorn and a cadre of electronic instruments. This versatility is prevalent in the expansive musical frameworks that inhabit his work.

Metheny has released an adaptation of John Zorn, Tap/Book Of Angels /Vol. 20. Zorn’s musical series (often referred to as the Masada Saga) combines the intensity of his avant-garde improvisation and experimental “Jewish” scales. The result is a widely unpredictable, creative venture. Six extended pieces (clocking in over 50 minutes) are represented by an instrumental tour-de-force outing by Metheny. His lone accompanist is drummer Antonio Sanchez. The opening track, “Mastema” begins with a repetitive, polyrhythmic tempo on a variety of guitars and synthesizers. The aural complexity and sound is melodic and halting with a chopping time signature. There are atmospheric brakes and the music is built in layers. But the shrill resonance of Zorn’s imagined alto saxophone comes across on distorted electric guitar. In contrast, “Albim” relies on acoustic and electric guitar that feels meditative and folk-inspired. The melody is specific and at times has a gypsy dance cadence.

“Tharsis” re-establishes the pulsating rhythmic structure but resurrects the Middle Eastern motifs on guitar and synthesizer. On “Sariel”, the music swells in cinematic fashion, with all the bravado of an Ennio Morricone score. However there are different movements to the songs that allow the instrumentation to be stacked. The mellow texture is countered by the piercing guitar licks. “Phanuel” is delivered in hushed tones, with a lyrical classical guitar style. The haunting elegance and relaxed flow is a departure from the other performances. Zorn’s improvisational essence is captured on the finale (“Hurmiz”).

Tap/John Zorn’s Book Of Angels Vol. 20 is passionate and makes a resounding statement!

 TrackList: Mastema; Albim; Tharsis; Sariel; Phanuel; Hurmiz

—Robbie Gerson

 




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