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Music Web – Almah CD Review

Thank heavens you can’t wear out CDs by over playing them or this one wouldn’t last long! What we have here is a trio of piano, bass and drums augmented by violin, two violas, cello and oboe and English horn. It is exceedingly rare in my experience for jazz to successfully incorporate a ‘classical’ line up within the jazz idiom without it sounding like two separate entities at odds with each other. Recently I came across the Laura Jurd Quartet whose debut disc Landing Ground had a classical string quartet playing alongside trumpet, piano, bass and drums and Laura had cracked it by creating a fully integrated sound. That’s what Avishai Cohen has done here too on his fourteenth album as leader and the result is beguiling, thrilling and exceptionally musical and I can’t stop playing it.

There is a meeting of musical styles on display with strands from Eastern Europe melding with Israeli and Arab melodies. The music is perfectly constructed and wonderfully presented making for a hugely satisfying experience that I guarantee will have you wanting to replay it many times before giving it a rest.

There are several tunes that were written by others than Avishai Cohen, including track 4 A Child is Born by Thad Jones, but all are given the Cohen treatment so that there is an overall sense of unity which makes for a disc which is superbly rounded. Arab Melody which is obviously traditional is a real treat, full of the most exciting tunes that while clearly timeless are rendered bang up to date once they’ve been filtered through the Cohen prism – delicious!

Tracks 6 & 7 are also heavily influenced by traditional music and it’s a refreshing change to hear jazz that is not a simple restatement of the classic format but something that could only emanate from a particular culture. The overriding point however, is that music is international, transcending any man-made boundaries with ease and that it is an inherent need that rises above petty squabbles; an international language we can all appreciate. To that end this disc can be seen as a major contribution. Tal Hashiloni, presenter and broadcaster said of the album that it “…defines a new language which carries the genes of a perfect synthesis between classical music and jazz, giving both the depth and respect they deserve”. I couldn’t have said it better.

Written by Steve Arloff

Original review HERE

Avishai Cohen