Avishai Cohen Trio
@ the Barbican Centre
24 November 2018
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Avishai Cohen biography
Avishai Cohen, born in Kabri, Israel on April 20th, 1970, grew
up in a multicultural family whose roots were found in Spain, Greece
and Poland. At home, music was always in the air, with his mother
Ora, an artistic influence, listening to both classical and traditional
music. Cohen’s musical journey began when he was nine years
old, when he began playing the piano. After moving to St. Louis,
Missouri with his family aged fourteen, he continued to study the
piano and began to play the bass guitar. The electric bass put a
spell on him when his teacher introduced him to the music of luminary
bassist Jaco Pastorius. Back in Israel, Cohen joined the Music and
Arts Academy in Jerusalem to further explore the bass universe.
At the age of 22, having served for two years in an army band, he
decided to take a big step and moved to New York City.
Cohen arrived in a wintry New York, January 1992. Moving to the
‘Big Apple’ was a challenging decision, emotionally
as well as professionally. The young Israeli had a tough beginning;
performing on the streets and working in construction to get by.
These small steps gave his music a unique sense of authenticity.
He studied at the New School in New York City with such artists
as Brad Mehldau and was soon to be performing and recording with
Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez’ Trio, reflecting the essential
role that Latin music played in Cohen’s early years whilst
in New York.
In 1997, a call from Chick Corea changed everything. Avishai Cohen
had passed one of Corea’s friends a demo tape without particular
hope of being noticed. Corea listened to it in his car and called
Cohen back a few weeks later, blown away by its freshness. As a
member of “Chick Corea’s New Trio” and a co-founder
of Corea’s ensemble, “Origin”, for over six years
Avishai became an integral part of Chick Corea’s music and
received the opportunity to fine-tune his skills as a bassist and
composer. Performing with Chick Corea played an important part in
shaping his musicianship, which led Avishai Cohen to consider Chick
as a teacher, colleague and friend.
Cohen’s first four albums, (Adama, 1998 Devotion, 1999 Colours,
2000 Unity, 2001) were released under Corea’s label ‘Stretch
/ Concord Records’ and already featured the essence of his
music and original compositions; Mediterranean and Latin influences,
and the use of horns and vocals created a sound that was truly unique.
“Unity,” Avishai’s fourth album as a leader and
the first to showcase his skills on piano, deserves a special mention.
The album was recorded with the International Vamp Band, a group
of fellow musicians formed by Cohen, from different parts of the
world (Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Israel). The idea behind the
cutting-edge project was to allow different cultures interact and
converse using the medium of music, delivering a message of peace
The growing range of projects he was involved in led Cohen to
create his own record label with his manager in 2002, ‘Razdaz
Recordz’, enabling him to follow his own path as well as record
talented young musicians he believed in.
Throughout 2013, Cohen presented a new, unique project, ‘Avishai
Cohen with Strings’ to a worldwide audience. At the center
of this project was a string quartet with a difference; Cohen replaced
one of the violins with a viola in order to benefit from its darker
timbre and create more depth. An oboist was further added to the
ensemble and joined Cohen’s core trio. Cohen’s warm
vocals in Hebrew, Ladino and Spanish subtly created a mood that
complimented the luscious instrumentation on his own one of a kind
composition. He found in this original configuration - “a
classical setting with an escape into jazz” as he described
it himself - the best way to fully express his love for both, through
written music and improvisation and to let influences that have
existed for years to blossom.
In 2014, Cohen extensively toured with his trio, and his “Almah”
project ‘trio with strings’, worldwide. Furthermore,
Cohen produced and presented All Original, released on his own label
Razdaz Recordz, a beautiful compilation of music celebrating the
growing young Israeli Jazz talents and scene. Cohen hand-picked
the musicians featured on the album who he considers some of the
leading young composers of this movement.
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 Choen’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 effect 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 difficult lives of ours, music can be
a form of salvation. At least this is what it has always represented
for me” says Cohen.
Edited by Robin Francis for Michael Valentine Studio
Cohen’s website to read his full biography