By Fran Hardcastle
London Jazz: “As a live performer, Cohen is hard to beat.”
The beautifully lit Union Chapel was positively buzzing on Thursday night. Avishai Cohen’s trio drew an international audience of enthusiastic and very vocal fans.
Promoting their new album, Seven Seas, the opening number, Dreaming introduced Cohen’s lilting vocals, with a voice not dissimilar to Sting in its comforting tone. What could have remained just a pretty tune was lifted by some funky underpinning on piano and the first taste of the whirlwind of sound to come from drummer Amir Bresler.
In the delicate dancing melody of the second number, Shai Maestro showed the most sensitive touch on the piano, with Mozartean improvisations. The sound engineer, Simon Jouin deserves a mention for one of the most clear sound set ups I’ve heard in years, picking up every nuance of the trio.
The album title track itself, Seven Seas showed showman Cohen at his best. The musicians seemed utterly at ease in a very tricky chart with a virtuosic solo from Cohen who animatedly bounced around his bass. His percussive play on the body of his instrument interjecting the lightning fast finger work.
The highlight of the evening came from a traditional Ladino song, in which the bass and vocal intro kicked into a dizzyingly energetic trio chart. Maestro created a hurricane of sound in the piano leading into a marathon solo from Bresler. The drummer shot sparks of electricity into the room, spurred by whoops & whistles from an ecstatic audience, in a performance that left my heart racing and made every hair on the back of my neck stand up.
The joyous salsa closing number brought a stadium sized sound out of the trio and a vibrant display of showmanship from each of the players. Theatrics included switching instruments and Cohen ending the chart strumming his bass side-on as an electric guitar at a Rolling Stones gig. Leading to one of the loudest, most deservedly appreciated rounds of applause I’ve heard since I saw EST for the first time 9 years ago in Paris, prompting Cohen to tell the crowd ‘You’re better than the French!’.
As a live performer, Cohen is hard to beat.