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Dispatches from Montreal (2): Avishai Cohen Trio at MIJF 2023

Avishai Cohen Trio with Roni Kaspi and Guy Moskovich.

(Théatre Maisonneuve. 30 June 2023. Review by Sebastian Scotney*)

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L-R: Guy Moskovich, Avishai Cohen, Roni Kaspi. Photo Benoit Rousseau/ FIJM

How rare it is for a side-woman or sideman to receive her or his own personal standing ovation mid-number, in the full flow of a gig. I’m wracking my brain and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. It happened last night in a full 1500-seater hall here, the Théatre Maisonneuve, near the end of Avishai Cohen’s tune “Seven Seas” (set list below). The audience was suddenly on its feet… and the recipient of the appreciation, having just played an extended and particularly zestful drum solo…was Roni Kaspi.

It felt like one of those moments which captures an important aspect of what a band is about. Avishai Cohen has been a consistent nurturer and developer of talent for more than two decades. It is a part, indeed an important part, of what he does. One day – who knows when, there’s no hurry, she is just 23 years old this month – Kaspi will break free and benefit fully from the benefits of all the profile-building and the experience that have come through being a member of this band. Last night there were several examples of her craft. On “Dvash” from the “Shifting Sands album, the tune is like an invitation to gently provide it with all kinds of cross-rhythms, whereas “Intertwined” the material is more of an encouragement to kick in hard and oppose the flow. Brilliant again. Izzy Blankfield wrote superbly and in detail for us about this in her review of the group at the 2021 LJF (link to review below.)

The mentoring and building continues: a new name in the group is pianist Guy Moskovich (b.1996). He is clearly another force to be reckoned with, and already appears to have the entire pad of tunes, and all the extended vamping and comping completely taped, knowig how to give the others their spring board, and also taking the lead and letting the full piano sound resound in his solos. I was particularly taken with his sense of timing and flow in transitions and tempo and mood-shifts. Really classy. Cohen himself presides, takes energetic solos, there is a fundamental balance and sense of rightness about him.

Avishai Cohen himself acknowledged that he prefers playing to making announcements, but he did express joy and relief that the trio was actually performing at this year’s festival, having had severe transport problems last year. And – as ever –the warm and well disposed Montreal crowd, relieved that the trio was finally there, knowing exactly what to expect, loved every moment.

Receiving the Miles Davis Award. Photo credit Marie-Emmanuelle Laurin

At the end of the evening MIJF co-founder André Ménard presented the festival’s Miles Davis Award to the bassist, remembering that he has been a fixture here for most of his professional life, and Cohen acknowledged what a special thing it has been in his career to have had such support.




The Window




Chutzpan (from “Gently Disturbed”)

Shifting Sands

Hitragut from “Shifting Sands”

Seven Seas



New tune in 13/8

(*) Sebastian is in Montreal as a guest of FIJM

LINK: Review of 2021 Barbican LJF concert

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