Interviews, Press

Duende – Jazz Japan

By Yoshi Higuchi

Just Two is Enough to Deliver Messages

“Duende” is like a pencil drawing. The sounds are created solely by the bass and the piano. Simple, but deeply artistic. Avishai says, “A great artist can remind us with his simple works, of untouched great sensitivity, which we used to have naturally in our childhood.” “Duende” gives you chance to feel Avishai’s philosophy of music and art.

After releasing the previous album “Seven Seas”, Avishai has been working on a new orchestral project, which consists of piano, guitar, drums, violin, viola, cello, and even an oboe. Nitai Hershkovitz is the project’s pianist. Following this project, Avishai and Nitai spontaneously started jamming together at Avishai’s home. Avishai immediately liked the unique rhythm and harmony of Nitai’s playing. Avishai believed that their sound, though it was just them two, had enough messages to deliver through their music. They soon after flew to Sweden in order to record their music. They had no intention to release an album but rather wanted to record it for the sake of marking it in their memory.

Avishai admires Nitai, saying “his performing is so deep and sensitive that I have not yet found this in other pianists.” Avishai’s newest album “Duende” shows how Avishai loves to work with Nitai. Nitai is very excited playing with Avishai and enjoys every moment. Both enjoy performing with each other. Listening to the album makes you feel like getting a glimpse of their private conversations.

“Duende” includes standards pieces that are rarely found in Avishai’s previous albums. Even at his live shows one seldom hears Avishai playing standards. It was Nitay who caused Avishai to play standards. Avishai says, “Nitai’s unique piano sound drives me to play standards. I feel a kind of traditional sounds in his playing. Nitai chose the standards number of “Duende”. “The only thing that I was not sure of before recording was if my original songs such as “Soof” and standards tunes can be harmonized into one album. However we found that our sounds were original enough so that you can find our original tastes
even in the Song of Monk”, Avishai added.

“Of course, I was very excited,” Nitai recalled the moment when he received a call from Avishai who asked him to join his band. The 24 year old pianist began to play the piano at the age of 15. “In my late teen’s I had been searching for my way of life. I discovered the world of music and this gave me a hint as to where I could find my true self”, says Nitai looking back at his late teens. Nitai always makes an unlimited effort to pursuit the best of his piano playing. “I especially practice challenging tunes. I do not want those who listen to my music to feel that I am playing challenging tunes. I want the tunes to taste fresh and be comfortable in my music.”

During the recordings in the Swedish studio, the two musicians did not stick meticulously to details. They rather let them happen naturally as they jammed at home. At that same time the sounds of Mozart echoed in their minds unconsciously. Avishai handed Nitai the classical Mozart album “Mozart: Sonatas for Piano and Violin by Itzak Perlman and Daniel Barenboim” before their recordings. “The duo album by the two great masters gave us a basic concept of “Duende””, Avishai said.

The world of Avishai has both male and feminine aspects. Avishai’s live shows are always dominated by his energetic and dynamic performances. At the same time his fans enjoy listening to his delicate and harmony-oriented sounds. These latter aspects are more pronounced in “Duende”. For instance, “Soof” is a song dedicated to his newlywed wife Soof. The soften phrase envelops the tune and even the unique bass tones of Avishai are softened in “Soof”. “Ann’s
tune” and “Calm” that were previously released in other albums with multi instruments were reborn as duo song in “Duende”. This new arrangement gives an attraction to let listeners go into the deeper side of these songs.

(this text was translated from the original Japanese article in Jazz Japan)

Duende - Jazz Japan

Avishai Cohen