“The first time I heard Nitai, it was in a little cafe in downtown Tel Aviv, Nico, in my neighbourhood.” Avishai Cohen literally fell for Nitai Hershkovits: barely 20 and despite a cheapo keyboard the youngster reminded him of Chick Corea and Danilo Perez, two illustrious peers the double bass player had been lucky enough to play with.”Nitai just swings naturally, with gentle authority; I’ve rarely seen that with other young pianists. He has something ancient within, a spirit that shines right through the way he tackles standards. You have to know your classics inside out, and love them, to tease the wonder out of them: no point just going over the same old ground, you have to do your own take, make them part of you. Nitai brings a fresh touch, reminding me of Brad Melhdau, without actually making any comparison. He has the same intent of making each song his own. He made me want to go back again to the story I thought was over.”
That’s how the duo came about, which he called Duende. It can be translated as spirit from Spanish, but it really refers to that baffling, uplifting feeling that Avishai Cohen really grooves to.
With the new millennium, the most sought-after sideman has been working non-stop as a leader, burning epoch-making albums. Starting with those cut in New York, like Lyla (The Night, in Hebrew), and Gently Disturbed, as the thundering trio’s pinnacle; and the two latest on the Blue Note label, Aurora and Seven Seas recorded when he returned to Israel. Digging into a new groove, a kind of chamber classical jazz-folk, these two albums broke with the past in a career that seemed to be written in the stars. Avishai Cohen dares to change his step with this record that favours a double bass-piano formula.