Perhaps my favorite of the Book of Angels series. There are certainly still some elements of Zorn's jazz side here, but this is more like of a classical record than anything. If you got the Masada String Trio album I posted with Mark Feldman's amazing violin playing, he is all over this one too. And Sylvie Courvoisier plays pretty inventive piano notes. It's beautiful and again very Jewish in sound. A few of the pieces are a little more "avant-garde" but overall, a very pretty effort from this duo.
The second book of Masada tunes—300 compositions John Zorn penned in 2004—is only revelatory for the most diehard of fans. What’s more exciting over a decade into the Masada story is that new life has been breathed into the project. Following Book Two releases by Jamie Saft and the Masada String Trio, Malphas is a set of eleven of those compositions interpreted by pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and violinist Mark Feldman, a duo which has been one of the most exciting of the many performers of this music.
Where other groups focus on the jazz or the upbeat groove of the songbook, Courvoisier and Feldman bring a classicism to the project, closer to the Masada String Trio (Feldman with bassist Greg Cohen and cellist Erik Friedlander). Their delicate playing is gorgeous, even more so than on their Masada Recital from 2004. It’s an airy yet poignant record, catching the best of what Zorn creates in the compositions.
The packaging, likewise, is simple and attractive: a maroon digipack with a stylized Star of David cut from the front. Occasionally the pieces are referential, quoting Mozart or the six-note ballpark “charge” theme, an approach Zorn has long worked into his compositions. He quoted “Für Elise” in his pivotal 1993 work Kristallnacht and used cartoon sounds in the string-quartet-plus-turntable piece “Cat o’ Nine Tails.” There, however, the quotations referred to something about the context of the piece. Here they just seem to emphasize Zorn’s eclecticism and serve as a distraction. Those moments, however, are few on a warm and beautifully recorded album.
-Kurt Gottshalk, Allaboutjazz.com