Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels Vol 20 (Nonesuch/Tzadik)

Pat Metheny

Released May 20, 2013

The Guardian 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2013





Nonesuch Records and Tzadik simultaneously release guitarist Pat Metheny’s recording of John Zorn’s Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol. 20 from Zorn’s Masada Book Two on May 21, 2013. This album is the first collaboration between the two artists, considered among their generation’s most innovative musicians. Besides his frequent collaborator, drummer Antonio Sanchez, Metheny plays all other instruments—guitars, sitar, tiples, bass, keyboards, orchestrionics, electronics, bandoneón, percussion, flugelhorn, and more—himself.

Beginning in the 1990s, Zorn wrote 500 songs inspired by traditional Jewish music; they came to be known as two volumes of the Masada Book. He performed the first 200 songs of Book One with the rotating members of the Masada ensemble for a decade before writing Book Two’s 300 tunes in just three months. Over the past eight years, the songs from Book Two have been recorded as volumes of The Book of Angels by a stellar group of musicians, including the Masada Quintet, Masada String Trio, Medeski Martin & Wood, and Marc Ribot.

Zorn says of Metheny’s recording, “Pat is of course a living legend—one of those rare lights in the universe. His incredible facility and dedication, indefatigable energy and focus, imagination, and never-ending curiosity have distinguished him as truly one of the greatest musicians on the planet.” He continues, “Tap is a showcase for Pat’s remarkable imagination, technique, passion, and love for the world. No matter how many times I listen to this recording I am hit with that same sense of exhilaration that hit me the very first time.”

Metheny, who recently won his 20th Grammy Award, adds, “I have admired John Zorn since the late ’70s and have followed his amazing output every step of the way. A few years ago, after contacting me to write some notes for one of his Arcana publications, John and I began an inspired e-mail connection. (As hard as it is to believe, we had never met in person over the years.) I mentioned that I had followed his Book of Angels series from the start and felt like I might be able to contribute something unique to the collection. With his enthusiastic encouragement, he gave me some suggestions as to which tunes were still unrecorded, and I picked the ones that jumped out and spoke to me. Over the next year, in between breaks from the road, I recorded them one by one in my home studio whenever I got a chance.”

Track Listing:

1. Mastema 7:19

2. Albim 9:07

3. Tharsis 5:54

4. Sariel 11:09

5. Phanuel 10:55

6. Hurmiz 6:12


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

Produced by Pat Metheny
Associate Producer: Kazunori Sugiyama
Recorded by Pat Metheny in New York, NY
Additional Recording at MSR Studios, New York, NY
Mixed by Pete Karam
Mastered by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, New York, NY

Compositions by John Zorn
Arranged by Pat Metheny

Design by Barbara deWilde
Based on a design by Heung-Heung Chin

Executive Producers: John Zorn and Robert Hurwitz


Pat Metheny has won plenty of Grammys for his catchy and smoothly song-like fusion music, but he has risked tough challenges, too – withOrnette Coleman, or the late improv guitarist Derek Bailey, or Philip Glass, for instance. This reworking of six pieces from John Zorn’s colossal songbooks is performed and overdubbed by Metheny on everything from guitars to keyboards and trumpets, with help only from his spirited regular drummer, Antonio Sánchez. Metheny manages to be true both to Zorn and himself – reflecting the former’s respect for traditional Jewish folk music while splintering it with free-improv assaults, but sustaining that creative tension in his own warmer and less abrasive ways. The melodies are wonderful, and variations often inspired – such as the dancing Mastema, which stretches and twists over a bass hook and Sanchez’s fierce grooves, or the yearning Albim, which elicits a Django Reinhardt-like acoustic-guitar expressiveness from Metheny. The sharply ripped motif of Hurmiz (like a Cecil Taylor piano figure)becomes a series of surging abstract-improv blasts against the drums, and the shapely chord-melody of Phanuel turns into one of the few orthodox jazz-guitar breaks on the set. Prolific composer Metheny might be, but he’s swapped all that for a masterly interpreter’s role here.

John Fordham (The Guardian)