Avishai Cohen is a contemporary bass player whose unimpeachable jazz credentials reference some of the most famous names in the music today whether performing in the role of, collaborator, or leader of his own highly regarded trio and other ensemble. In this recording he returns to the origins of his musical development by revisiting the grounding he received the classical repertoire and, in particular, his love of chamber music. To these formative influences he has wedded his subsequent interest in jazz and folk forms in a way that avoids the contrived manner in which these musical genres are often brought together, creating a synthesis that sounds wholly natural and unforced ,devoid of `Third Stream` incongruities or `jazzing the classics` parody.
Though the writing for strings and winds is anachronistic in the sense that it displays no avant-garde tendencies and largely follows the conventions of diatonic classicism, it is undeniably beautiful and enables the jazz trio element to move within it in a seamless fashion without detriment to the largely elegiac, subtly melancholic mood. Some of the writing, as in the opening overture, is overtly `classical` in that it recalls the courtly measures of a Sarabande whilst other pieces have a pastoral air that might be reminiscent of Delius or Vaughan –Williams having an autumnal tone that is enhanced by the presence of two violas and a cello, producing a more luminous sound than is typical of a conventional string quartet with the oboe contributing tonal highlights to brighten the aural palette.
Most of the compositions and all the arrangements are by Cohen who honours his Russo-Israeli heritage by including pieces drawn from traditional sources or from the work of unfamiliar composers that represent his early cultural experience. Additionally he offers an amalgam of Lebanese tunes brought together in a the lively `Arab Melody` which like the coda to `On a Black Horse`, a reworking of an old Russian army tune, provides an opportunity to break loose with a vibrancy that relieves the pervading sobriety. His American muse is represented by charmingly refined reading of Thad Jones classic `A Child is Born` and, of course the ever present jazz improvisation of the core trio which is skilfully woven into the overall fabric.
Cohen plays both acoustic and electric bass , the latter featuring powerfully in the ostinato driven original `Shlosre`, the most ostensibly jazzy piece on the album, which puts the trio in the foreground giving prominence to the superlative piano playing of Hershkovits and ending with an exciting walk through drum break from Nehemya. In addition to his instrumental and compositional contribution the leader sings on the final track giving a moving rendition of an Israeli song that owes a great deal to the Jewish cantorial tradition and draws to a conclusion a fine disc of variegated music that will give pleasure to a potentially wide audience within and outside the jazz fraternity.
Reviewed by Euan Dixon
Original review HERE