CD review

Avishai Cohen – Arvoles

Avishai Cohen – Arvoles
(Rough Trade. 0190296901881. Review by Dick Hovenga*)

Arvoles brings bassist Avishai Cohen back to jazz after an excursion into pop with 1970, the album he released last year. And he also has a fine new trio with Naom David on drums and Elchin Schirinov on piano.

1970, dismissed as not substantial enough by (jazz) journalists – who can be quite cavalier in their attitude to writing – was a deliberate step for Cohen after having stirred things up in jazz for several years and attracted a huge following. The fact that he wanted to sing has been known for years (that much had been pretty obvious from his concerts), so an entire album of songs was an obvious move. 1970 was therefore entirely consistent with the direction of Cohen’s music-making music as as we know it.

With Arvoles, Cohen returns to the instrumental jazz, for which he is so revered. These are compositions played in virtuoso manner, using jazz structures and forms, but cut across with clever Jewish, folkloristic and oriental elements. He has yet another new trio and again it is quite brilliant. And of course Cohen is a superb bass player and all-rounder. Surrounded by these major talents, he sounds even better.

Drummer Naom David is a fabulous discovery. He can play tightly, and then be loose and really swing, and is wonderfully attuned to Cohen’s bass playing which has bounce and lift, but can also switch to being lyrical and melodic. Elchin Shirinov from Azerbaijan is another great revelation on Arvoles. He is a great pianist who studied privately rather than going the conservatoire route, and can already easily bear comparison with top jazz players. What joy he has in his playing, such a combination of craftsmanship and musical virtuosity.

There are further riches in Arvoles because Cohen doesn’t let the trio do the all the work on their own. The contributions of horns (trombone, flute) give the album extra atmosphere and power. That said, the trio plays strongly and coherently throughout, form a fabulous basis for the ensemble, and they impress and surprise again and again.

From the rock-solid bass sounds from Cohen with which the album opens, to the beautiful closing sounds of Wings and in between some great additions to his repertory such as Gesture #2, plus the downright virtuoso Face Me, the beautiful Childhood (for Carmel), Nostalgia (with Shirinov in the shining leading role) and Elchinov (Cohen at his absolute best), Arvoles is an excellent new album that is among the very best in Avishai Cohen catalogue, which is already full of good things. And it is also remarkable how Cohen, who will turn 50 next year, manages to surprise us again and again with such strong jazz albums. The live concerts in the pipeline are definitely something to look forward to.

* This review originally appeared in Dutch at Written in Music and is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two sites. Translation by Sebastian.

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