Such is the frenetic output of Tzadik, the label for ‘radical Jewish culture’ set up by avant-gardist John Zorn, that it’s always rewarding to see what the New Yorkers have retrieved, rescued or recorded. This time, it’s Out of the Reeds, a rare CD first released in 2000 by the Knitting Factory imprint. A collection of songs – some traditional, played on ouds, tablas, crumhorns – there’s a timelessness to the album.
It’s also an album that suits Tzadik’s ethos of making connections. (Not many labels would release cover albums of Marc Bolan, Burt Bacharach and Serge Gainsbourg under the umbrella heading of ‘great Jewish Music’; even fewer labels have categories entitled ‘Lunatic Fringe’.) Out of the Reeds has an energy to its material and performance that takes it far beyond the many klezmer or diaspora albums around. Basya Schechter – guitarist, oud player and vocalist – is the main force among her four-strong band and numerous guest musicians. The thrust of the power has to be heard on the opener, ‘Afilu’, or the Ladino-texted ‘Ija Mia’ or the superb guitar work of ‘Im Ein Ani Li Mili’, where traditions and centuries seem to collapse into one another. Out of the Reeds is a joyful, concentrated work.Louise Gray