Avishai Cohen got the crowd cheering!
by Mats Hallberg – Orkesterjournalen – Gothenburg, February 7th, 2020
Of all the times the Israeli super bassist Avishai Cohen has visited Sweden, I have only seen him this one time. Of the seventeen albums he has released, I have only listened carefully to one of them (“Arvoles” June 2019, his latest, which I also recently reviewed). Nevertheless, I thought I recognized a bright, embracing sound, whose purpose it is to break boundaries. Cohen’s current project is called 50:50:50, which should be interpreted as celebrating his 50th birthday by performing 50 concerts in 50 countries. The only concert in Sweden was located at the Gothenburg Concert Hall, the home ground for the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. On stage, Avishai Cohen’s trio was accompanied by our eminent National Orchestra led by Alexander Hansson, an orchestra I have enjoyed countless times. The two-hour schedule was kept despite the five extra songs. Nilento – Cohen’s favorite record studio team – was there for the recording of the show and its rehearsals.
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra opened alone on stage with two original Cohen orchestral pieces, creating soaring sounds and pleasantly suggestive tones. Next, the protagonist entered the stage together with pianist Elchin Shirinov from Azerbaijan and the rhythmic phenomenon Mark Guiliana (whom I have heard live before) from New Jersey. The performance turned into a haunting event with both explosive and lyrical elements. High expectations were met with praise by an artist who is said to be among the hundred most significant players of his instrument. I was surprised by Cohen’s singing in Hebrew, Ladino and English. I found that he has a sentimental vein, which fits naturally in his repertoire. Vocally, he was most at home singing ethnic tunes, while he still succeeded superbly in the blue-hearted “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” and in the evergreen “Nature Boy”.
Distinctions are difficult, sometimes unnecessary. Still, the extraordinary combo of a virtuoso piano trio and a tagged, high-class symphony orchestra makes for a sweet music that would be misleading to call jazz. This is no valuation, just a fact! Much of the program can be attributed to expansive world music with a touch of art music. Eastern tradition marries Western tone, a happy marriage the audience welcomed through standing ovations. The 49-year-old lead the party, presenting and garnishing the show with heart-breaking bass escapades. Much solo space was given to Shirinov, who impressed the audience with wonderfully melodic runs at the grand piano. Guiliana kept a low profile for a long time during the show, usually whisking on his drums. In the end, he was assigned a couple of departures in which he proved his star status. The refined dialogues between instruments excited the audience. When the trio and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra were at their peak, a breathtaking, dramatic nerve gave rise to an electric atmosphere in the Concert Hall. The perfect acoustics did not make the euphoria any less intense. Cohen rhetorically commented on a resounding applause: “You like it fast?” By contrast, “A Child Is Born” and a tender Hebrew love song were performed as a follow-up.
The finale vibrated with wellbeing and hope through the cheeky, choppy beats by Guiliana in the incredible piece “Emotional Storm”, arranged by Sweden’s own Per Ekdahl. What a beautiful evening for us live music enthusiasts! All of you who could not attend this sold out event have an exceptional record to look forward to.