REVIEW : Avishai Cohen’s New York Division at the Barbican

Avishai Cohen’s New York Division at the Barbican
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Avishai Cohen’s New York Division
(Barbican, 16th July. Review by Mike Collins)

Avishai Cohen brought two trios to the Barbican on Thursday. His regular trio with Nitai Hershokovits on piano and Daniel Dor on drums would have been a hot enough ticket, but augmenting that core with the guitar of Kurt Rosenwinkel, Steve Davis’ trombone and Diego Urcola’s trumpet meant this was a must-see.

Cohen riffled through his extensive back catalogue for the repertoire for this ‘old mates meet-up’, the addition of the New York Division both expanded the palette and colours in the sound and pushed Cohen’s signature blend of influences in an edgier post bop jazz direction. From the first pulsing pedal note that launched the gig with Reunion of the Souls there was an electricity. The blend of Urcola’s trumpet and Wilson’s trombone oozed class; one sweet toned voice shadowing the descending sequence before Urcola span off into a fluid, elegantly phrased boppish solo, little rhythmic kicks upping the energy. Every time we heard him it left this listener wanting a bit more. The same could be said of everyone on stage however. Rosenwinkel admirers had to wait until near the end of the first set before he really let rip on C♯, a typical Cohen composition with grooving contemporary take on a dance-like chanting theme. The show was nearly stolen by pianist Nitai Hershokovits. He wound up through the gears, letting fly with blistering runs interspersed with two-fisted rhythmic exchanges with Daniel Dor on drums. Dor wasn’t to be outdone, whipping up a tumultuous drum solo that had the band grinning admiringly.

If there were fireworks a-plenty, Ballad For An Unborn evoked tender lyricism and reminded us that the beating heart of the band was the empathy and playfulness of the core trio. A singing melodic line from the bass underpinned graceful, flowing, piano arpeggios played with crystalline purity. Cohen’s solo, lyrical and expressive, included a tounge-in-cheek swerve through English Country Garden before Hershovits’ solo managed to combine glistening, impressionistic showers of notes with melodic inventiveness and stop-start, rhythmic games with Cohen and Dor.

The second set started with another configuration of a trio, Cohen backed by just that exquisite horn section, exploring every inch of his instrument on Bass Suite No 1 before the full team returned to alternate between purring grooves and swaggering burn-ups. This was a band that seemed to be revelling in each other’s company and the appreciation of a sizeable Barbican crowd. Yagla brought things to a climax with more fireworks from Hershovits before the New York Division, ‘trading eights and fours,’ brought things to the boil.

Cohen had declared at one point, “We’re having so much fun, we should have booked more gigs”. We can only agree. Bring this band back soon.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

Categories: miscellaneous

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