For the second time in a year, we’re here looking at an Avishai Cohen album, but from two different musicians. Because, while both are jazz artists who hail from Israel, the one we examined earlier specializes in acoustic bass. The one we are looking at here is a trumpet player.
Avishai Cohen –the trumpeter — plays jazz like that bass guy, but his jazz is more of the global-fusion variety.
After just one album as a leader (2003′s The Trumpet Player), Cohen set his sights higher, building an album’s worth of music around the concept of water. Make that three albums.
The first of “The Big Rain” trilogy came to us in 2007, titled After The Big Rain, which was a Lionel Loueke showcase as part of an ensemble of a half dozen players performing world fusion with a heavy West African flavor and some light electronic shadings.
This past October came the second of the trilogy, Flood, released on Anzic Records. This follow-up is no straight continuation of Part One, however. Joining Cohen’s trumpet are Third World Love bandmates Yonatan Avishai on acoustic piano, and Daniel Freedman on percussion. And that’s it.
The more introspective music here unfolds slowly and never gets more intense than scraping the bottom of the mid-tempo range — you might call it a slow-motion mood jam. Cohen is blessed with a rich, sure tone and is a master at picking his spots when to play, subtly prodding his fellow musicians along the way. The wide open, leisurely pace each tune takes would make the music ideal for a soundtrack, and it’s not hard to imagine either pensive or placid movie scenes while the music is playing.
Since the tracks are stark motifs based on a handful of arpreggiated chords, the whole album flows smoothly from one song to the next. Such a characteristic makes it hard to pick out selections that stand out from this group of songs best appreciated as a whole piece. Still, I can think of a couple that stick in my cranium well after the music stops playing:
“Heavy Water: Prologue” is unaccompanied trumpet, where Cohen makes poignant fragments, bending a few notes and elongating a few others for maximum effect. Serving as the lead-in to the longer and gradually unfolding “Heavy Water,” it prepares that major piece nicely, by introducing the chordal root and setting up the modal center.
“Nature’s Dance” is the catchiest tune in a collection of tunes not really trying to be catchy. Its circular riff is playful and mutates over time, keeping the listener engaged in it. As is found elsewhere on the album, the conversation among the three here is personally engaging and lies at the heart of the record’s appeal.
The dry, barren but unspoiled landscape of the CD cover is the perfect metaphor the describe this music, not a flood. Perhaps that was the intent of the artist — to paint an aural scenery where a flood is hoped for or anticipated. No matter; if Flood doesn’t connect in the way Avishai Cohen intended, it’s bound to connect in some positive way to most anyone who listens to it.