Album reviews

Avishai Cohen – ‘Two Roses’

Avishai Cohen – Two Roses
(naïve/believe M7369. Album Review by Jon Carvell)

When it first came out, I spent months listening to Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen’s 2007 album As Is… Live at the Blue Note. It’s a total riot of a set, bringing to life some of the best tracks of the previous year’s breakthrough album Continuo and ending with an irrepressible performance of Caravan. Now, some 14 years later, Cohen is a big name at any international festival and has a wonderful back catalogue under his belt, which he revisits here, alongside new compositions, in the august company of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.

Still here from the early days is metrically agile drummer par excellence Mark Guiliana, and on keys is a newer talent in the form of Azerbaijani pianist Elchin Shirinov, who featured on Cohen’s 2019 album Arvoles. Recorded just before the pandemic, Two Roses paints Cohen’s music in broad and bold orchestral colours. Standout track When I’m Falling is a clear example of how at home in this medium Cohen is. The orchestration is expansive and beautifully rendered so that every detail can be discerned. The players have the precision to snap to Cohen’s compound metres, and clever touches in the writing such as a marimba ostinato or woodwind countermelodies add to the rich tapestry underpinning Cohen’s vocals.

Elsewhere, Emotional Storm, first recorded on the Continuo album, takes on an even greater urgency than its original form. Guiliana’s razor-sharp drumming zips through the busy texture, and Shirinov and Cohen are locked in step for the piece’s every twist and turn. The disc’s title track could be mistaken for the opening to a Hollywood soundtrack, but alongside the more cinematic moments there are classy standards snuck in here too. Cohen explores the inherent emotional ambiguity of eden ahbez’s Nature Boy and Thad Jones’s A Child is Born to sustain wide musical horizons.

In the hands of a lesser artist, the mighty Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra could have felt underused or tacked on, but that’s not the case here. The link between the trio and orchestra feels genuine and necessary, and there’s certainly a sense that the live experience will be a real blockbuster. Until that time, this album is the best seat in the house for an extraordinary collaboration.

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LINK: Two Roses at Avishai Cohen’s website

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