With contemporary composers utilizing such a wide range of instruments, and drawing upon so many different sources for inspiration, is it still reasonable to differentiate between them and the modern jazz musician? As both genres continue to explore forms of composition and musical styles that extend beyond the boundaries previously associated with them, the space dividing them has narrowed considerably. In fact, judging by some of the music I've heard recently, jazz musicians seem to be the ones doing the most to expand music's potential to express ideas and emotions.
This was brought home to me again listening to the latest release on Anzic Records by trumpeter Avishai Cohen called Flood. Flood is the second recording in what he's titled The Big Rain Trilogy, and while the CD is a description of a flood along the lines of the one experienced by Noah, Cohen describes it as an attempt to tell the story from the point of view of nature, where death is a part of the natural cycle and is actually crucial for nature's survival. As he says, "Nature does not lament the flood nor resist it, but rather accepts it as its own." With the trilogy he is attempting to build a picture of the life that exists before, during, and after the flood; nature's strength and beauty, and humanity's search to improve itself in the hopes of preventing another flood.
Flood is divided up into seven sections with each one representing a different stage in the life of the flood from its very beginnings as rain ("First Drops"), to the earth's renewal after the waters have receded ("Cycles: The Sun, The Moon, And The Awakening Earth"). With Cohen's trumpet, only being accompanied by band-mates Yonatan Avishai's piano and Daniel Freedman's percussion, it's difficult to see how they could create the range of sound one presumes would be needed to fulfill his objective with the music. However, after listening to the composition for the first time I realized that Cohen was utilizing more than just the sounds of the instruments to achieve his desired objective, there was also the manner in which the sounds were played to be considered, and of course the various rhythms utilized and their inter-relation.
It's the piano that opens the piece, and Yonatan Avishai's playing captures the sound and feel of rain drops falling to the ground. At first it's very relaxing, almost trance inducing, like listening to the sound of a gentle rain on a peaceful summer afternoon, and even as the rain intensifies with the addition of percussion and trumpet, you never are given the impression of being at risk, as the sound continues to wash over you. Gradually though a certain level of discordance creeps into the music with both the piano and the percussion starting to increase in tempo. However, instead of the trumpet becoming more shrill or intensifying in some way to match them, Cohen continues to play with the same smoothness that marked his entrance into the piece.