For the 3 Cohens jazz is a family affair. Tel-Aviv, Israel natives Anat, Yuval and Avishai Cohen are three siblings who share an affinity for the intricacies of jazz, and through clarinet, saxophone and trumpet, the trio have delivered some intricate melodies on their second release, Braid.
In fact, Braid is the perfect name for this album: the music is just the right blend of impromptu jazz moments, playing over piano and drums — it's more like the interweaving strands of a braided throw-rug than your standard, predictable jazz album.
The 3 Cohens aren't afraid to try new things and experiment with melody and rhythm, adding an eclectic blend of Middle Eastern traditional folk to the North American jazz elements. Of course, it also helps that it's all in the family, and you can feel the intimacy and interaction between the siblings on every note.
The album kicks off with "Navad (The Wanderer)," a fast-paced horn collective that mixes elements of modern jazz and bebop with some traditional motifs thrown in to signal the trio's roots. Backing the band and keeping them straight rhythmically are pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Eric Harland, and the drum work on "Navad" shines; the band sticks to a 6/8 time signature, but keeps the syncopation loose as the 3 Cohens groove out saxophone and trumpet melodies.
Even though Braid has a modern jazz feel, the music shows the band members are not afraid to borrow from the past. In their own original and innovative way, 3 Cohens have used the traditional Israeli melodies, and in songs like "T'fila (Prayer)," the band mixes up the jazz feel for a few measures and adds in some folk-driven melodies and rhythmic structure. On "U-Valley," the song rides along with piano/saxophone arpeggios that sound like a traditional dance movement, but has a pace reminiscent of swing-era jazz at the same time.
Braid is an album that reminds listeners that jazz can be fun and spontaneous as well. On "Freedom," the band lets out all the stops for a horns versus rhythm-section face-off, and while the Cohens siblings blow out some tight melodies, drummer Eric Harland responds back with equal force. Avishai's trumpet solo partway through the song gives way to clarinet and saxophone solos, an improvisational streak that shows the band is as musically tight as they can be. In the background, you can hear someone yell "Yeah!," and the band swings back to let the piano, bass and drums take over. "Freedom" is jazz improv at its best, and it shows a band at their creative height.
There are also more subdued moments on Braid that pull back a bit and give the band a chance for introspection. On "Elegy For Eliku" (dedicated to their uncle Eliku), the horns play off of the opening piano chords, and a muted trumpet pulls back the tone a bit. Although instrumental, the song seems to tell a story, and it's a chance for the Cohens siblings to reminisce on their past. Introspection and subtlety also take over on "Gigi et Amelie," a six-minute steady jam that follows a verse-chorus-verse structure, without leaving out the improvisational aspects of jazz.
The best part about Braid is that it borrows from its past as much as it forges new musical ground. Fans of almost any jazz era will find something valuable in Braid, and its intricate song structures and beautiful melodies give the album a modern feel. With its eclectic mix and family ties, Braid is an excellent jazz album for 2007 and beyond.