A local public radio jazz program featured this album several weeks ago, and I was hooked from the first tune, "Feediop." I sat in my car to hear the whole song, enthralled by the rhythmic vitality and brainy construction of the tune, and stayed in my car for another half hour while host David Basse played a more cuts from the album. Magical! I bought it the next day.
What's immediately noticeable about Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen's music is the strong influence of Chick Corea, and Cohen's obvious affinity for the jazz fusion movement of the 1970's. His inspiration comes from Barry Miles, John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, George Duke, and, of course, Return to Forever. His bass playing is unique. He seems to be much more influenced by keyboardists than by other bass players, pace Jaco Pastorius.
Cohen has a gift for spinning a memorable jazz number out of a simple melody or ostinato pattern that reminds me strongly of Weather Report's Joe Zawinul. Cohen is a multi-instrumentalist, and his ease and facility with numerous instruments shows in his writing.
His collaborators on AT HOME bring beautiful flesh to the bones of his compositions, with standout work from drummer Mark Giuliana and keyboardist Sam Barsh. The level of invention and execution is phenomenally high, a fact that people who see Cohen's Trio in live performance mention over and over. Alas, I missed his recent concert here in Lawrence, KS, much to my chagrin.
Yosvany Terry, soprano sax, Diego Urcola, flugelhorn, and Anne Drummond, flute, provide gorgeous work of their own to several numbers. The flute/flugelhorn combination is especially potent on "Gershon Beat" and "Mediterranean Sun."
Cohen finds inspiration in the fusion jazz of the 1970's, but he is very much a schooled 21st century musician, with monster chops and endless virtuosity. He is truly a world musician, serving up the musical idioms of Africa, Cuba, India, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. I love picking up bits of Lalo Schifrin (among others) in his ensemble writing!
AT HOME is an all-acoustic album, with the notable exception of "Saba," (electric bass + organ), the delightful colors of the melodica (think bandoneon) and Fender and organ on "Leh-Lah" and "Renouf's Last Tooth.
This is a "pure" jazz album for music lovers who lean towards electric and jazz-rock, but lovers of Dave Brubeck's quirky expression will find much to admire, too. This is an album that truly rewards repeated listening. The songs just get richer, more interesting and more likeable with every playing.
Incidentally, I purchased this album with "Lyla," an earlier album of his, and while I enjoy "Lyla," AT HOME is really the big winner for me. Avishai Cohen is a wonderful artist.
Oh, don't confuse bassist Avishai Cohen with trumpeter Avishai Cohen. They're two different people.