Very few journeys have been as adventurous and unpredictable as the musical path Avishai Cohen has been walking for the last twenty plus years. Ever since the highly acclaimed Israeli bassist/composer became a bandleader his recordings have shown a constant evolution. Avishai’s previous outing ‘1970’ became his most commercially successful so far, and introduced him to a pop audience that for the most part wasn’t even aware of his vast catalogue and work.
The obvious thing, then, would be to just do it all over again. But Avishai doesn’t like to go where he’s already been. So ‘Arvoles’ (‘Trees’ in the ancient Ladino-language) is very different in tone and feel. ‘’This time I wanted to focus on something else. I see ‘Arvoles’ as new music, it’s a reflection of my world over the last couple of years. Let’s just say the new work shows another part of my personality. If you listen to both records back to back, you’d get a pretty good idea of who I am as a man, a husband and a father.”
It’s a collection of original instrumental compositions, and one traditional song was written over the last couple of years without the intention of ever being compiled on the same record. Still, they all fit together like a hand in a glove. ‘Arvoles’ recorded with drummer Noam David (Israel) and pianist Elchin Shirinov (Azerbaijan) are both magnificent musicians and composers in their own right .They both join Avishai on the road for extensive worldwide touring that runs deep into 2020.
“The idea with this recording was to say more with less” explains Avishai, “But it takes the experience to get there”. The music’s been clearly identified with his own unique and defining DNA, although he only found out, once the recording was complete. “It’s impossible to escape from myself, even if I would want to.” And so his dynamic influences remain.
There are traces of classical music and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. There’s bebop and hard bop, swing and hip-hop. But with every new album his own personality shines through more emphatically. ‘The jazz visionary of global proportions’ – a quote from DownBeat Magazine – feels more at home in his own skin these days. “I think I’ve learned to get to the point quicker, in music, but also in life.
Most of these compositions seem to deal with looking back. There are even horns in there, Björn Samuelsson (trombone) and Anders Hagberg (flute) which I hadn’t included in my writing for some time.
You could say I’m going back to basics, but with the maturity and vision that the last couple of decades have brought me. Nostalgia at its best is the strongest, most romantic, sincere, bitter-sweet feeling. And I agree it’s all over the record, with compositions like ‘Childhood’, ‘New York ‘90’s and ‘Nostalgia’.
I had the happiest of childhoods, and I’m very proud I could include one of my mother’s paintings on the front cover of the album. She’s an artist in her own right, and it just made things come a full circle. I’m very proud to be working with her in this kind of way.”
And so once again Avishai Cohen is able to present us with a masterful chapter, full of spirit, joy, and the pure pleasure of playing and listening together.
It’s a different record to the sixteen that came previously and it’s uncertain where his next step will bring us.
But one thing’s for sure: it won’t be where he’s been before…