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Avishai Cohen Trio: Shifting Sands

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Avishai Cohen
Bassist, singer and composer Avishai Cohen

Every once and a while a recording comes along that is so spectacular that you may want to unabashedly dance to  the music in the street, perhaps even handing out copies of it if you could – certainly recommending it to anyone who wonders why you are dancing so ecstatically. In Shifting Sands Avishai Cohen performs in his most preferred – intimate – setting of the trio. Following his orchestral immersion in his previous album, Two Roses, with the Gothenburg Simphony Orchestra, Mr Cohen crafts this new music also for a newly formed trio – one of the finest he has ever put together [the one with pianist Nitai Hershkovits notwithstanding].

Avishai Cohen Trio: Shifting Sands
Avishai Cohen Trio: Shifting Sands

Time and again, you may have marveled at the virtuosity, the confidence and sureness of Mr Cohen’s playing, combined with the finesse and musicality that he has always displayed. Although you think fleetingly of the great masters of his instrument – Jimmy Blanton, Charles Mingus, Oscar Pettiford, Ray Brown and Scott LaFaro – this is the kind of recorded performance where comparisons cease to matter. But that might also be to shirk one’s reviewerly duty because, in fact, Mr Cohen’s performance puts him smack-dab into that great musical continuum that includes those ancestors.

Balancing the sheer colour and variety – and nuance – of Mr Cohen’s playing, not least in “Intertwined”, the musicians are coaxed into the twisting, downward spiraling bass line melody quoted by the pianist Elchin Shirinov’s left hand entwined like a double-helix, with Mr Cohen’s pizzicato lines. The pianist’s vividly evocative right hand forms another skein drawing in drummer Roni Kapsi into the web of a musical melee. Elsewhere Phrygian modes and shimmering desert motifs adorn the languid loping lines of “Dvash”, which develop in elliptical arcs to the rhythmic pulse of a caravan in the desert.

The bowed intro of “Cha Cha” is absolutely magical. The melodic lines are evocative of Mr Cohen’s cultural topography, traversing the music of Sephardi, folkloric Yemenite, Judeo-Greek-Turkish and North African modes. Furthermore, on “Hitragut” Mr Cohen delivers one of the most lyrical serenades through the strophic verses, sculpting the words of Psalm 147 into each line, as he – together with the idiomatic performances of the other members of his trio – make the musical notes leap off the page. This disc is, quite simply, one to die for.

Avishai Cohen Trio with [at left] pianist Elcnin Shirinov and [at right] drummer Roni Kapsi
Avishai Cohen Trio with pianist Elchin Shirinov and drummer Roni Kaspi

Tracks – 1: Intertwined; 2: The Window; 3: Dvash; 4: Joy; 5: Below; 6: Shifting Sands; 7: Cha Cha Rom; 8: Hitragut; 9: Video Game; 10: Kinder Block

Musicians – Avishai Cohen: contrabass; Elchin Shirinov: piano; Roni Kaspi: drums

Released – 2022
Label – Naïve/Believe [M7594]
Runtime – 51:11

YouTube Audio – Avishai Cohen Trio – Cha Cha Rom

Featured photo of Avishai Cohen by Ori Sali

Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

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