Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Avishai Cohen: Oriental sounds in Middelburg abbey

Avishai Cohen: Oriƫntaalse klanken in Middelburgse abdij ( Nederlands) - Avishai Cohen: Oriental sounds in Middelburg abbey (English)

Aurora electrifies the audience of the Middelburg festival
Hans Koert

When I first heard that Avishai Cohen would join the 4th International Jazz Festival in Middelburg in the south west part of The Netherlands, scheduled May, 2010, he was no more then a just a name for me. I'd never heard about him nor did I heard his bass before, although ....... A week before the concert, I listened to one of my favorite record sets - the Chick Corea + Origin complete Week At The Blue Note - a registration of 6 shows ( three days - early January 1998) at the Blue Note Club in New York City. It's one of my favorite live recordings, because it gives you the opportunity to listen to "all" Blue Note club concerts of the first days of January, 1998. When I listened to one of the shows, I wondered who the bass player was. Guess who: Avishai Cohen.

Avishai Cohen and his Aurora band at the 4th International Jazz Festival of Middelburg. (f.l.t.r.: Karen Malka - Avishai Cohen - Amos Hoffman) ( May 2010) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Avishai Cohen joined the 4th International Jazz Festival of Middelburg on the 23rd of May, 2010. He brought his ensemble featuring Shai Maestro at the piano and keyboards, Hamar Doari on percussion, Amos Hoffman on oud and guitar and Karen Malka vocals. And, of course, the leader Avishai Cohen played his bass and sung.
Love to share with you one of the Hebrew sung tunes he performed in Middelburg, entitled Alon Basela, which handles about an oak tree.

Avishai Cohen, born in Naharia (Israel) April 1970, started to play the piano at the age of nine. In 1984 the Cohen family moved to St. Louis. He became fascinated listening to the music of Jaco Pastorius, who played the bass in bands like Blood Sweat and Tears and Weather Report. Before he started to play with Chick Corea he performed with Paquito d'Rivera and the Panamanian piano player Danilo Perez. The latter was one of the members of his first band with Ravi Coltrane, Jason Lindler and Steve Wilson to name some. Now, in 2010, he made almost a dozen records and Aurora is his latest one.

Avishai Cohen - Aurora

During the Middelburg concert Avishai surprised me with his sound - his music as released on the Blue Note Aurora album. Remarkable for me was the presence of Amos Hoffman who played the oud. The oud is an Arab string instrument and looks like an ancient lute. The oud is not often used in jazz and the only musician I remember playing the oud was Lloyd Miller, an American multi-instrumentalist, who had is own TV-program for NIRTV in Tehran ( Iran - then Persia) and played and studied the Persian music. He brought these weird instruments to the States and experimented with it in concerts. He says, that he inspired Don Ellis to use oriental insturments. Well, he is now a professor in Oriental Music. Fact is, that instruments like the oud, are seldon heard in jazz nowadays. Avishai Cohen ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Avishai says: Jazz is now moving into a great era. For many years there were just two movements: the traditionalists and the modernist. For a lot of jazz fans the jazz came to an end with Charlie Parker - for others it was Coltrane, Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor. Traditionalist are speaking of OKOM ( = Our Kind of Music) in forums and I learned that the first "modernists" are now elderly people too. Jazz fans are now discovering a new approach to the genre which give priority to mixing, intermingling, swing and the pure pleasure of music.

Amos Hoffman ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

With this project, Aurora, Avishai loves to explore his roots - The music draws its source in the soil of his home land, at the crossroads of many cultures. Arab-Andalusian and Hebraic, it tells the story of Bedouins of the desert and speaks of life, love, youth and freedom. The use of the oud gives Avishai's arrangements that Arabic flavor which gives it very special sound. For the first time, Avishai Cohen sings, using his voice as a direct and powerful vehicle for his emotions. He sing songs in Hebrew, like El Hatzipor, Alon Basela, Leolam, Morenika ( part in Ladino, a language used by Sephardic jews), but also in Spanish ( Alfonsina y el mar and Noches noches). Some songs are in English. Avishai received a lot of request to publish translations of these songs. It is free available now.

Avishai Cohen and his quintet. (f.l.t.r. Shai Maestro - Karen Malka - Avishai Cohen - Amos Hoffman - Hamar Daori) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Love to share the Spanish tune Alfonsina y el mar written by Ramirez and Luna

The audience of the festival was overwhelmed and fascinated by these unusual harmonies, rhythms and lyrics, which gave me flashbacks to our trips to Egypt, Syria and Jordan, like in tunes like Leolam. The five musicians showed that they belong to the best. Shai Maestro is a young promising Israeli piano player, who joined the Avishai Cohen group a few years ago - percussionist Hamar Doari surprised with his smooth almost brittle solo performances. Amos Hoffman, who played the oud happened to be a skilled guitar player too.

Avishai Cohen ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
Most people where fascinated, impressed and almost in shock .... by the performance of Avishai Cohen's Aurora ensemble - Avishai electrifies the audience at each performance, I read somewhere and that seems to be not far from the truth. When I got home I had a lot to deal with, and that's how a good concert should be !! I've played the Aurora album since then a dozen times !!

Love to share with you a fragment of a small documentary entitled: - Aurora: the Making Of ..........

Aviashai Cohen - Aurora ( Blue Note 5099945735806 )

Hans Koert

Avishai Cohen electrifies the audience at each performance I read in an announcement and that is true ...... Avishai Cohen and his band left Middelburg's audience almost shocked - Oriental sounds, Hebrew songs and jazz improvisations were mixed into a slick show ..... In his new album Aurora Avishai impresses with his cross-border music. Avishai Cohen and his Aurora Quintet was one of the guests at the 4th International Jazz Festival of Middelburg last month. If you want to stay informed about the contributions in this Keep Swinging blog, ask for its newsletter.
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