Avishai Cohen – Almah (2013)

Avishai Cohen - Almah (2013)
Artist: Avishai Cohen
Album: Almah
Genre: Contemporary Jazz
Origin: Israel
Released: 2013
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps

Tracklist:
01. Overture ‘Noam’, Op.1 03:53
02. Song For My Brother 04:55
03. On A Black Horse/Linearity 04:17
04. A Child Is Born 06:25
05. Arab Medley 04:11
06. Southern Lullaby 02:38
07. Hayo Hayta 06:09
08. Shlosre 03:52
09. Kefel 03:28
10. Kumi Venetse Hasadeh 03:45

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After a dozen albums as leader and a career that has seen him perform with Chick Corea, Mark Guiliana and Alicia Keys, Almah finds bassist Avishai Cohen returning to his first loves. Those “first loves,” according to the press notes, are classical music and, more particularly, chamber music. Almah is a return to these loves, but with a healthy dose of Middle Eastern inspiration and at least one certified jazz standard (Thad Jones’ “A Child Is Born,” which receives a graceful and mellow interpretation here).

Although the credits state “All songs written and composed by Avishai Cohen” the exceptions to this rule are in the majority. Six tunes come from composers such as Jones, Moshe Vilensky and Nachum Hayman. Five tunes are Cohen’s, including “Linearity,” which combines with Vladimir Zakharov’s “On A Black Horse.”

The return to first loves means that Almah is much more of a classical music album than it is a jazz album. The instrumental line up puts the emphasis on strings, oboe and English horn. “Overture ‘Noam’ Op.1″—a floating, beautifully-paced, composition from Cohen—gives a strong hint just by its title. Yoram Lachish’s oboe features strongly, while Cohen’s decision to use two violas beefs up the string quartet’s middle and lower registers.

The jazz breaks through—Cohen’s electric bass on “On A Black Horse/Linearity” or his punchy pizzicato double bass on “Song For My Brother,” the drumming of Ofri Nehemya, Nitai Hershkovits’ sparkling piano solo on Hayman’s “Kefel.” It never overwhelms the classical influences however: but at its best this music combines its stylistic influences beautifully—most exquisitely on Cohen’s “Hayo Hayta.”

If the neat classification of music by genre is crucial, then Almah will prove to be an exercise in frustration. If the pleasure of listening to beautifully-crafted music, beautifully played, is paramount then Almah fits the bill.
By BRUCE LINDSAY

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