Jazz music, news and views

Friday, July 27, 2007

Avishai Cohen: After the Big Rain

Trumpeter Avishai Cohen's newest release, After the Big Rain, artfully unites the sonic worlds of modern jazz, electronic, funk and "world." That last term is generally considered an undesirable, reductive catch-all, but there are few economic ways to describe Cohen's globally inclusive approach. The Tel Aviv trumpeter (no relation to the bassist by the same name) is prized as a sideman (I'd recommend his sister Anat Cohen's Place and Time and Noir as well as Yosvany Terry's Metamorphosis) and has already debuted with The Trumpet Player, but his sophomore release should shed more light on his creativity as a leader.

The opening title track is actually a good representation of Cohen's MO here. His songs seem more like melodic sketches or polyrhythmic explorations -- open-ended rather than rigidly structured. His trumpet, treated with some tasteful effects, is beautifully eerie. And while each player's personality is essential to the album's vibe, it's clear from the first track that guitarist Lionel Loueke stands out as a major figure. His distinct muted fingerpicking on acoustic guitar give the song -- and album -- plenty of texture. A gig review by Ben Ratliff for the NY Times accurately noted the guitar phenom from Benin "has quickly become one of the astonishments in American jazz." He also reveals how Loueke achieves some of his unique sounds here by placing paper under the strings near the bridge of his guitar. After seeing him live three times, I still have no clue how he pulls these ideas out of himself.

Like the opener, many of the songs are built on vamps that open outward as the song develops, especially when the rhythm section picks up steam. Drummer Daniel Freedman's strength and finesse blossoms fully as Cohen's trumpet solo unfolds on "African Daisy," and the band as a whole eventually erupts on the twelve-minute tour-de-force, "Parto Forte." Cohen's bright, agile solos here (one with effects, one without).

On the gentler side, though, he's just as captivating. He uses a harmon mute on the brooding, intimate "Afterthoughts (Mozartine)." Especially here, his lachrymose phrasing and tone might invoke images of Miles Davis playing a ballad, but Cohen is less terse and readily explores the song's harmony with his own brand of lyricism. He acquires a buzzy, choked sound through his effects on the erotic "Meditation on Two Chords" with Jason Lindner's Fender Rhodes providing the tune's creamy sonic core.

Most importantly, Cohen doesn't lose his personality in the sea of ambience and effects. He's a potent, sensitive player whose improvisations are highly attentive to the forms, melodies and motifs, and he appears to be an emerging conceptualist with a strong vision. As the first part of an album trilogy, After the Big Rain sets the stage for a gradual, artful revelation of his musical vision.

After the Big Rain (Anzic)
Avishai Cohen (trumpet)
Lionel Loueke (guitar, voice)
Jason Lindner (keyboards)
Omer Avital (bass)
Daniel Freedman (drums)
Yosvany Terry (shekere)

The Big Rain Trilogy (listen to "African Daisy" by clicking on "After the Big Rain" at the bottom)
NY Times gig review (Ben Ratliff, 01.14.06)


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