Avishai Cohen with the BBC Concert Orchestra mesmerise at Barbican

The evening starts with the restraint and decorum proper to a classical concert – the correct formalities of applause for the first violin and conductor (Bastien Still) are observed, the baton is tapped on the lectern, and the 57-strong orchestra launch into Cohen's compositions 'Noam' and 'Hayo Hayta'. We're placed firmly in the sound world of 19th century romanticism, with a passing suggestion of Gershwin's 'Summertime' emerging briefly from the sweeping strings - the effect is soothing rather than sublime. Avishai Cohen strides on from the wings; pianist Omri Mor and percussionist Itamar Doari follow, black-clad like their leader. After a spoken tribute to his late friend, London promoter John Ellson, Cohen picks up the bass that lies centre-stage and the orchestra launch into a sombre waltz. As the trio starts to play, the sonic focus switches rather abruptly from the subtle acoustics of the orchestra to the band's amplified sound coming through the PA system; but after Cohen's long, virtuosic solo full of shifting Middle Eastern accents, the strings return briefly and the sound becomes more integrated. Next comes a traditional Ladino song passed down from three generations of Cohens; backed by strings and woodwind, Avishai sings very affectingly in a light but powerful alto, and there's another brief exploration from the trio. Then 'Two Roses' takes us into more familiar territory; a pulsating polyrhythmic groove against fleet, complex unison lines from piano and bass, the orchestral arrangement sitting closely with the trio and building up with a rush to a sweeping wordless vocal melody, with Doari kicking up a storm on a hybrid array of jazz, orchestral and eastern percussion instruments that draws the biggest applause of the night so far.

AvishaiCohen DSF7703

The journey through Cohen's musical multiverse continues with Hank Jones' 'A Child Is Born' – the ingenious rhythm arrangement and lush orchestral texture seems to call out for a vocal from Nat King Cole; it's bold, exciting and poised all at once. There are outstanding solos from Cohen and Mor – on the final beat Cohen hits a clear, powerful bass note and lets go of the bass so that it seems to stand for a second, balanced by it's own resonance. Cohen is a commanding, almost military presence, but the mood softens as he performs an Israeli pop song from his youth and sings straight from the heart; then there's a medley of material from Lebanese singer Samira. The band move effortlessly into the language of the Levant; the string section swoop and soar, the bowed bass echoes the grainy wail of the rabab fiddle, and Mor creates a spectacular solo by imitating the frenetic shimmer of the qanun or Arabic zither on his piano to roars of applause. "In music, everybody gets along – who says I can't play Arab songs?" comments Cohen wryly.

AvishaiCohen MG 3430

Things are really starting to hot up; 'Morenika' shows off Cohen's power, precision and flawless intonation and builds from compelling groove into a moving coda, with the orchestral writing powerfully integrated with the trio; then 'Alon Basela' explodes into an amazing dumbek solo from Doari before Cohen leaps aboard the stirring theme and rides his bass off into the sunset. The crowd are on their feet for an encore, and Cohen obliges with a bass solo on 'Seven Seas' that demonstrates how, in a world where many hip young musos are busy playing furious, offbeat ostinato grooves in impossible time signatures, Cohen is still the original and best. The crowd won't let him go, and he returns again and again and even offers to take requests. Playing solo, singing and accompanying himself by strumming, tapping and drumming on the bass, standing proudly centre stage, he seems to be channeling all the power of his diverse heritage. After a rather measured start, it's been a captivating journey through the unique world of this immensely talented multi-cultural maverick.

– Eddie Myer

– Photos by Roger Thomas

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Campaign builds to rename Williamsburg Bridge in Sonny Rollins’ honour

Campaign builds to rename Williamsburg B…

It's been four years since Sonny Rollins, 86, last took...

Read More.....
Boogie at the Bandstand – the Love Supreme low-down

Boogie at the Bandstand – the Love Supre…

Ahead of the start next week of the fifth edition...

Read More.....
Tin Men and the Telephone and Tord Gustavsen for Ronnie’s Piano Trio Fest

Tin Men and the Telephone and Tord Gusta…

The fourth edition of the Ronnie Scott's International Piano Trio...

Read More.....
Marcus Miller, Chick Corea and Charles Lloyd top Blue Note at Sea cruise 2018

Marcus Miller, Chick Corea and Charles L…

Following the success of the inaugural Blue Note at Sea...

Read More.....
Alice and John Coltrane Celebration, Nik Bärtsch and Eliane Elias added to EFG London Jazz Festival

Alice and John Coltrane Celebration, Nik…

A raft of new concert hall additions have been announced...

Read More.....
Laila Biali and Idang Rasjidi Syndicate shine at Borneo Jazz Festival

Laila Biali and Idang Rasjidi Syndicate …

Set against the lush tropical gardens that stretch down from...

Read More.....
Doom Crooners Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones: Torch Song Cult

Doom Crooners Dale Cooper Quartet & …

Britanny-based brigands Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones have forged...

Read More.....
Ollie Howell ‘Knew’ video exclusive ahead of UK tour dates

Ollie Howell ‘Knew’ video exclusive ahea…

Fast rising drummer Ollie Howell recently released his second album...

Read More.....
Theo Crocker, Neil Cowley Trio and Martin Taylor step up for Glasgow

Theo Crocker, Neil Cowley Trio and Marti…

The 31st edition of the Glasgow Jazz Festival, running from...

Read More.....
Geoff Simkins, Nikki Iles and Dave Green out to lunch at Cadogan Hall

Geoff Simkins, Nikki Iles and Dave Green…

Although billed as individuals, this effectively was the Geoff Simkins...

Read More.....
Marco Colonna and Filippo Vignato Among Homegrown Heroes At Novara Jazz, Italy

Marco Colonna and Filippo Vignato Among …

  A ritual accompanies the end of every concert at this...

Read More.....
Jazz In The Round, Arena and Bandstand names complete Love Supreme Line-Up

Jazz In The Round, Arena and Bandstand n…

A final flurry of additional performances have been confirmed for...

Read More.....
Folk-Jazz on the Fjords and Elephant9 get gnarly at Nutshell Jazz

Folk-Jazz on the Fjords and Elephant9 ge…

Suddenly, a burly Viking saxophonist is softly blowing a ballad...

Read More.....
Loueke and LRK light up Brussels Jazz Weekend

Loueke and LRK light up Brussels Jazz We…

Real Brussels is nothing like the Brussels of politicised fiction...

Read More.....
Maisha celebrate the Alice Coltrane Songbook at Church Of Sound

Maisha celebrate the Alice Coltrane Song…

The spiritual jazz legacy of Alice Coltrane is set for...

Read More.....
Soft Machine fire-up Elgar Room

Soft Machine fire-up Elgar Room

British jazz-rock legends Soft Machine will be firing up the...

Read More.....
Brad Mehldau Trio, Georgie Fame and Camilla Beeput shine at Bath Festival

Brad Mehldau Trio, Georgie Fame and Cami…

Brad Mehldau, Georgie Fame with Guy Barker's Big Band and...

Read More.....
Tenth edition of Made in the UK rolls up to Rochester

Tenth edition of Made in the UK rolls up…

This year's 10th edition of the Made in the UK...

Read More.....
Django Bates Salutes Sgt. Pepper’s 50th anniversary with album and six nights at Ronnie Scott’s

Django Bates Salutes Sgt. Pepper’s 50th …

Jazzwise can exclusively announce that Django Bates, cover star of...

Read More.....
John Surman scoops Ivor Novello Jazz Award

John Surman scoops Ivor Novello Jazz Awa…

Brit-jazz sax great John Surman has won the Ivors Jazz...

Read More.....
Polly Gibbons gets passionate at Pizza Express Jazz Club

Polly Gibbons gets passionate at Pizza E…

Having been a fan of Polly Gibbons' vocal and songwriting...

Read More.....
Sax Star Stetson Plays Historic Brighton Picture House

Sax Star Stetson Plays Historic Brighton…

  Sax powerhouse Colin Stetson plays a one-off solo show in...

Read More.....
LUME Launch Follow-Up London Fest

LUME Launch Follow-Up London Fest

  Those genre-bending bastions of the UK's new jazz wave LUME...

Read More.....
Global Fusions and 25 for 25 Commissions Fire-Up EFG London Jazz Festival

Global Fusions and 25 for 25 Commissions…

Some exciting international jazz names are among the latest additions...

Read More.....
Joshua Redman, Phronesis/Engines Orchestra and Cottonopolis for Manchester Jazz Festival line-up

Joshua Redman, Phronesis/Engines Orchest…

The line-up has been announced for this year's Manchester Jazz...

Read More.....
Harpist Bzhezhinska strums up whole-hearted homage to the Coltrane legacy

Harpist Bzhezhinska strums up whole-hear…

  One of the capital's lesser known jazz venues, Toulouse Lautrec...

Read More.....
Norma Winstone and Interplay show how it’s done

Norma Winstone and Interplay show how it…

When a top vocalist is in such high demand and...

Read More.....
Andrew McCormack accelerates with Graviton album launch

Andrew McCormack accelerates with Gravit…

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack is set to make a dramatic...

Read More.....
Corea Crowns Host Of Cheltenham Charms

Corea Crowns Host Of Cheltenham Charms

A successful jazz festival is made in the mix: the...

Read More.....
The Rolling Stones give Jazz FM Awards the blues

The Rolling Stones give Jazz FM Awards t…

Rock'n'roll icons The Rolling Stones walked away from last week's...

Read More.....
Penguins Flip Filmic Treat At Bristol's Colston Hall

Penguins Flip Filmic Treat At Bristol's …

GoGo Penguin have always had one eye on the dancefloor...

Read More.....
Intakt Fest Goes International At The Vortex

Intakt Fest Goes International At The Vo…

  Given the fact that Swiss record company Intakt has been...

Read More.....
Shabaka Hutchings, Donny McCaslin and The Rolling Stones among Jazz FM Awards winners

Shabaka Hutchings, Donny McCaslin and Th…

The fourth edition of the Jazz FM Awards, presented by...

Read More.....
Special London Screening Of Ascenseur Pour L'échafaud

Special London Screening Of Ascenseur Po…

As part of the global celebrations for International Jazz Day...

Read More.....
Norma Winstone’s Interplay line-up for Leamington Spa

Norma Winstone’s Interplay line-up for L…

To coincide with International Jazz Day, Leamington Spa-based promoters In...

Read More.....
Alice Zawadzki and Gwyneth Herbert sing with Sam Lee’s Nightingales

Alice Zawadzki and Gwyneth Herbert sing …

Adventurous Mercury Prize-nominated folk singer Sam Lee's nature-bound concert series...

Read More.....


Qobuz-ad

 

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Nick Prol & The Proletarians: wondrous Loon Attic mind-flubbers, crisping brain circuits https://t.co/pWtbnP8yCo @CUNEOFFICIAL @RecCollMag
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@DaftLimmy You've kept this quiet...
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Campaign builds to rename Williamsburg Bridge in Sonny Rollins’ honour https://t.co/s75PT9WVTT https://t.co/mpe7Ten72x
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@DiscoveryRecor1 @hawkinsmusic @LauraJurd @juliekjaersax @percypursglove Soon the world will be ours... they alread… https://t.co/3tnHoDEocj
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@DiscoveryRecor1 @hawkinsmusic @LauraJurd @juliekjaersax @percypursglove Hey Discovery, not Jon... a minion...
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-Newsletter