Avishai Cohen – Verona – 24 giugno 2021
Avishai Cohen (Hebrew: אבישי כהן; born April 20, 1970) is an Israeli jazz double bassist, composer, singer, and arranger.
Avishai was born in Kabri, a kibbutz in northern Israel. He grew up in a musical family at Motza and Beit Zayit near Jerusalem until the age of six, when his family moved to Shoeva, western Israel. He began playing the piano at 9 years old, but changed to the bass guitar at the age of 14, inspired by bassist Jaco Pastorius. Later, after playing in an Army band for two years, he began studying upright bass with Michael Klinghoffer. Two years later he moved to New York City, and got in contact with other jazz players. At the beginning of his stay there he had to struggle, working in jobs like construction. According to him his first year there was the most difficult year of his life, having to play bass in the streets, subways and parks. He studied music at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and after playing Latin jazz in a few bands in his student years, Cohen was approached by pianist Danilo Pérez to join his trio.
After a long period of performing in small clubs, Cohen got a phone call from the jazz pianist Chick Corea and was given a record contract. In 1996, he became a founding member of Corea's sextet Origin, and his first four albums as a leader were subsequently released under Corea's Stretch label. Cohen performed in Corea's bands until as late as 2003, when he left the Chick Corea New Trio and started his own record label; he currently performs with his own group, the Avishai Cohen Trio (with fellow Israelis Daniel Dor on drums and Nitai Hershkovits on piano). His later albums have been released by this formation with extended lineup including wind instruments.
Aside from Corea, Cohen has accompanied, recorded or performed with several noted jazz figures such as Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Nnenna Freelon and Paquito D'Rivera. Other collaborators include Claudia Acuña (Wind from the South, 2000), Alicia Keys (studio recording) and the London and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras (concert performances). Cohen has been cited as "undoubtedly the most successful" of Israel's jazz exports by The Jerusalem Post a "jazz visionary of global proportions" by Down Beat, one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player magazine, and "a great composer" and "a genius musician" by Chick Corea himself.
In 2002, Cohen founded his record label, Razdaz Recordz, and on September 9 of 2003, released his label's debut album, Lyla. "I've always been interested in several genres of music, including jazz, rock, pop, Latin and funk," says Cohen. "I'm always packed with ideas. I decided to start my own label because I'm involved in so many different projects." (Avishai Cohen, 2003) As of 2012, the label had produced 12 albums, five of which were Cohen's. Other artists associated with the label include pianist Sam Barsh, saxophonist Jimmy Green, flutist Ilan Salem, and guitarist Amos Hoffman. Also produced by Razdaz are the works of some of Cohen's associates such as drummer Mark Guiliana, who performed with Cohen on two of his albums. Razdaz produced an album for Guiliana'a band HEERNT in 2006. Razdaz also produced Lady of The Forest, the first album of the singer Karen Malka, in 2010. Karen had been touring with Cohen for three years prior. The most recent production of the label is Ilan Salem's album Wild, which is Ilan's third album, though it is his first under Razdaz.
Lyla is the first album released by Cohen's Razdaz Recordz. The album was lauded for its genre breaking diversity. Cohen reflects on his work, "Lyla reflects much of who I am as an artist. The International Vamp Band has been touring for two years and I wanted to document that. I also started a rock band Gadu with Israeli drummer named Mike Starr dubbed by 'Drummer magazine' as one of the most aggressive drummers in Jazz and some young musicians who are graduates of William Paterson College. It's creating a buzz in New York, I have been exploring a lot of new territory. I've also been working on pop tunes with a female vocalist named Lola. And, of course, to show the whole picture on the CD, I wanted to acknowledge my relationship to Chick. I've been associated with him for six years and have played hundreds of shows in his bands, so we're very connected."
Almah (2013,) (meaning “young woman” in Hebrew and “soul” in Spanish), was released on Parlophone/Warners and beautifully captured the interaction between the richness of composed music and the freedom of jazz in Avishai's ultimate musical statement. It blends old Israeli, Middle Eastern songs such as “Arab Medley”, rearranged originals from previous Avishai recordings like “Song For My Brother” and also breathed new life into a jazz standard like “A Child Is Born” by Thad Jones. Avishai gave a very personal touch to the album, naming it after his first born daughter andadding his voice solely to the last piece, “Kumi Venetze Hasadeh” as if to sign on the record.
2015 saw the release of the new, highly anticipated trio album named From Darkness (Razdaz Recordz) featuring Nitai Hershkovits (piano) and introducing the talented Daniel Dor on drums and marked the next step in Avishai's career. The Trio, a format that has always been present in his music and guides him on his artistic journey, has never been praised so much than in this album; outstanding for the unity and mutual listening between the three partners: “With this Trio, there is an immediate form of equality between musicians.” “Here, three becomes one” says Cohen. From Darkness combines the strength, the groove and the rhythmic challenges of original pieces such as “Lost Tribe” or “C#-“, with the sensitivity and fragility noticeable in “Almah Sleeping” or “Ballad for an Unborn”. Far from being a plunge into darkness, this release proves to uplift the listeners and the musicians: “If there is an eect I like feeling within myself whilst playing, it’s this one. It is the very essence of the music, a goal to achieve … in those dicult lives of ours, music can be a form of salvation. At least this is what it has always represented for me” says Cohen. In Leonard Cohen's song “Anthem”, he wrote these penetrating lines; “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” It is through
these majestic aws, carved by humans and musicianship, that From Darkness lets the light radiate from an art that, more than ever, can legitimately claim to reach the truth of the human soul. Halfway between respect for tradition and urge for new ventures: Avishai Cohen's very own sound has never been clearer.
Very few journeys have been as adventurous and unpredictable as the musical path Avishai Cohen has been walking for the last twenty plus years. Ever since the highly acclaimed Israeli bassist/composer became a band leader his recordings have shown a constant evolution. Avishai's previous outing ‘1970’ became his most commercially successful so far, and introduced him to a pop audience that for the most part wasn't even aware of his vast catalogue and work .
The obvious thing, then, would be to just do it all over again. But Avishai doesn't like to go where he's already been. So ‘Arvoles’ (‘Trees’ in the ancient Ladino-language) is very different in tone and feel. ‘’This time I wanted to focus on something else. I see ‘Arvoles’ as new music, it's a reflection of my world over the last couple of years. Let's just say the new work shows another part of my personality. If you listen to both records back to back, you'd get a pretty good idea of who I am as a man, a husband and a father.”
It’s a collection of original instrumental compositions, and one traditional song written over the last couple of years without the intention of ever being compiled on the same record. Still, they all fit together like a hand in a glove. ‘Arvoles’ recorded with drummer Noam David (Israel) and pianist Elchin Shirinov (Azerbaijan) are both magnificent
musicians and composers in their own right. They both join Avishai on the road for extensive worldwide touring that runs deep into 2020.
“The idea with this recording was to say more with less” explains Avishai “But it takes experience to get there.” The music's been clearly identified with his own unique and defining DNA, although he only found out, once the recording was complete.
“It’s impossible to escape from myself, even if I would want to.” And so his dynamic influences remain. “
There are traces of classical music and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. There’s bebop and hard bop, swing and hiphop. But with every new album his own personality shines through more emphatically. ‘The jazz visionary of global proportions’ – a quote from Down Beat Magazine - feels more at home in his own skin these days. “I think I’ve learned to get to the point quicker, in music, but also in life.
Most of these compositions seem to deal with looking back. There’s even horns in there, Björn Samuelsson (trombone) and Anders Hagberg (flute) which I hadn’t included in my writing for some time.
You could say I’m going back to basics, but with the maturity and vision that the last couple of decades have brought me. Nostalgia at its best is the strongest, most romantic, sincere, bitter-sweet feeling. And I agree it’s all over the record, with compositions like ‘Childhood’, ‘New York ‘90’s and ‘Nostalgia’.
I had the happiest of childhoods, and I'm very proud I could include one of my mother's paintings on the front cover of the album. She's an artist in her own right, and it just made things come a full circle. I'm very proud to be working with her in this kind of way.”
And so once again Avishai Cohen is able to present us with a masterful chapter, full of spirit, joy, and the pure pleasure of playing and listening together.
It’s a different record to the sixteen that came previously and it’s uncertain where his next step will bring us.
But one thing’s for sure: it won’t be where he’s been before…
Avishai Cohen: bassist, vocalist & composer
50:50:50… the numbers add up to a whole world of sound.
It is common for artists to celebrate a milestone in their careers and lives, especially if they have taken an eventful path towards it. Avishai Cohen has chosen to mark a pivotal stage in his artistic and personal development with a fittingly exciting project. In 2020, the year of his 50th birthday he will perform 50 concerts in 50 countries right around the world. Rather than simply embarking upon an extended trans-continental tour Cohen will symbolize in the most direct and adventurous way the most personal theme of his work to date: music as a means of uniting people across what might be seen as cultural differences. By literally crossing borders he will be figuratively breaking down barriers, presenting his songs as a kind of musical ‘Esperanto.’
Born on 20 April 1970, Avishai Cohen is an artist whose own journey to international recognition has been nothing short of remarkable. A virtuoso double bassist, composer and vocalist, he left his native Israel to learn jazz in one of the most stimulating and testing cities in the world: New York. After thoroughly dedicating himself to the art of improvisation, by way of busking on the streets of the Big Apple as well as studying theory at college, he landed one of the most prestigious gigs imaginable: sideman to the iconic pianist Chick Corea.
The young student went on to become a bandleader in his own right, recording under his own name, and building a fiercely loyal fanbase from the late ‘90s through his dynamic live shows. It soon became apparent that Cohen sought to bring the concept of the ‘global village’ to both the songs he played and bands he led.
As his music embraced everything from jazz, pop, classical and Israeli - Arab folk songs, his music partners were drawn from the Middle East, USA and South America.
His message was clear: Unity.
Hence the 50:50:50 project resonates with the spirit of inclusion and solidarity that has defined Cohen's music from the outset. Over time he has provided key opportunities for up and coming young artists, as Corea once did for him. Cohen's decision to hire players who have gone on to become significant leaders in their own right is testament to this. To uphold that ethos of nurturing, that desire to foster the growth of others, 50:50:50 will offer a new, unique young band or artist the chance to record for Cohen's label Razdaz Recordz for release in early 2020.
If Cohen's personal mission has been to share as well as inspire through his ability and the creative partnerships that result from it then 50:50:50 gives him a platform to do so to even greater effect.
Here is a global artist going global, offering a totally unique experience to diverse audiences right across the planet; a chance to come together around Avishai Cohen and enjoy
a whole world of sound.
Cohen's signature sound is a blend of Middle Eastern, eastern European, and African-American musical idioms. The New York Times describes his 2006 album Continuo as conjoining "heavy Middle Eastern groove with a delicate, almost New Age lyricism".
Cohen often sings in Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino), to which he has a connection through his mother. For example, "Morenika", from his album Aurora, is a very famous Ladino song he grew up hearing his mother singing around the house.