Smokin' In Sevilla

Since 1994, when alto saxophonist and composer John Zorn first assembled the Masada Quartet, the group has served as the benchmark for small-group acoustic jazz. Live in Sevilla 2000 finds the ensemble's players functioning at the peak of their considerable talents.

The album, recorded March 16 at Seville's Teatro Central in Spain, captures a complete 80-minute concert. Its nine songs — all of which originally appeared as part of 10 releases for the Japanese DIW imprint — span the six-year history of the group. That makes Sevilla 2000 a good starting point for anyone new to Zorn's unique project.

Masada's music, all composed by Zorn, is loosely based on traditional Jewish melodies and is built on tight, well-played ensemble passages that lead into spellbinding improvised solos and duets.

"Ne'eman" (RealAudio excerpt), Sevilla's opener, has Zorn delivering a fierce solo that builds to a thrilling climax. Dave Douglas' trumpet solo on the slower paced "Hadasha" (RealAudio excerpt) is less hectic, but no less intense in ideas and development. "Beeroth" sees Joey Baron exploding on drums for nearly seven thrilling minutes. Bassist Greg Cohen's muscular, elastic playing keeps the group anchored throughout; he solos briefly on "Yoreh." "Hazor" (RealAudio excerpt) combines everything that makes Masada great into a compact six-and-a-half minute triumph.