Zion80 is a big band with a big sound—a full horn section alongside multiple percussionists, keyboards, and guitars. They’re a combination of Jewish music, Afrobeat, and avant-garde jazz—late last year, during their residency at a jazz club in the Lower East Side, the band had sixteen players, plus a surprise guest sitting in. Their first album featured funky, super-danceable versions of traditional Jewish liturgical tunes by rabbi/songwriter Shlomo Carlebach.
That night at the jazz club, their surprise guest was avant-jazz composer John Zorn, in the middle of writing a 613-song series, the Book of Angels. Now Zion80‘s just-released second album, Adramelech, features eight songs written by Zorn, the latest entry in that series.
Adramelech is denser than Zion80’s first album of Carlebach songs, but no less fun. They’re alternately haunting and joyous, funkdafied and perplexing. The horn section evaporates during an echoey, almost gospel trumpet solo on the first track, “Araziel,” only to drop back in, one at a time, building with a vengeance. “Metatron” opens with a throwback hard-rock feel, then winds through big-band and disco sections until it explodes in a choral finale. Each song is named after an angel—some, like Metatron, are more well-known; others, such as Kenunit (one of the angels who protects Jewish children from Lilith) are way more obscure.