My beliefs about Israeli-born bassist Avishai Cohen have evolved over the years. Upon the release of his 1998 debut CD as leader, Adama, on Chick Corea’s Stretch/Concord imprint, I was immediately intrigued by the double-threat emergence of this major talent and recent addition to Mr. Corea’s working band. As a bass player he seemed a burst of sensitive virtuosity, quite fluid in approach but also post-John Patitucci, by which I mean unlike some of Mr. Corea’s prior sidemen his playing exhibited both soulfulness and restraint. I also recall initially thinking as well that here was a composer of great promise, and by-and-large that promise has been fulfilled for me across his eclectic fifteen-disc discography.
From Darkness, Mr. Cohen’s latest CD, available on Razdaz Recordz/Sunnyside, features pianist Nitai Hershkovits, drummer Daniel Dor and Mr. Cohen on bass. For me, a new and highly engaging ensemble precision thoroughly evident on this trio’s recording debut enhances and accompanies Avishai’s excellent compositions.
On “Beyond,” the album’s opening track, Daniel Dor’s masterful drumming, Nitai Hershkovits’ command of the piano’s full dynamic range and Avishai’s bass fills make for a winning two-minute introduction to what lies ahead. “Abie,” which follows, shows inventive use of the trio format; its recurrent Latin motif, displaced by individual bass and drum developments in the first half, followed by a haunting riff that ends with a surprise drop-off, evinces real arranging and writing acumen, creating multiple levels of interest greater than the sum of changes and solos that so many piano trios typically fall into.
Of the many great solo features evident throughout this album, my favorites include Nitai’s piano solo on “C#” and Daniel’s brushwork on “Ballad for an Unborn,” where his subdued interplay seems all too rare in a world of loud drummers. On the other end of the dynamic range, “From Darkness,” catches fire due to Avishai’s lead electric bass work.
The contrast between the subtle dissonance of “Amethyst” and the cloudless-sky sunshine of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” beautifully arranged to add a touch of doubt to the poignant melody, closes this disc on a most uplifting note. That sense of sunshine along with the precise, of-one-mind group interaction makes From Darkness my favorite among Avishai Cohen’s discs to date. With all there is to explore on this disc, I hope you’ll decide to listen and see if you don’t agree.
“A transcendent example of the capacity of music…to reach beyond geographical and political boundaries.” – Los Angeles Times
From Darkness, the new and 15th album from multi-talented composer-bassist-singer Avishai Cohen, was released March 31st via Sunnyside/Razdaz Recordz. A critical darling whose press fans include The New York Times, NPR, MOJO, Jazz Times and many others, the release of From Darkness will be accompanied by tour dates across the globe.
Much like the importance of a compass to an explorer, when Avishai Cohen is asked what he would consider his favorite navigational instrument, he replies without hesitation, that it is his bass-piano-drums trio that helps him to find his orientation and drive, to push forward. Avishai reflects that “… my discography has only one trio album [Gently Disturbed, 2008] which doesn’t really reflect the fact that my music has always been written for – and executed by – trio”
From Darkness sees the Israeli composer, bassist and singer go back to the very core of his musical idiom and activity, but with Avishai, what may seem as a return to the basics always brings the promise of a new beginning. From Darkness once again opens an essential gateway into a new creative and expressive dimension. “It is the first time since Gently Disturbed that I have the feeling I am reaching a new, fresh and incredibly substantial form with the trio,” a belief reinforced by two outstanding partners, pianist Nitai Hershkovits and drummer Daniel Dor. “Both Nitai and Daniel take my music to places and perspectives that I had never suspected it would go and I couldn’t dream of anything better.” Avishai goes on to describe this chemistry between them: “Here, three becomes one.”
This unity between human and sound owes a lot to a virtue brought here to its highest intensity; mutual listening, a soulful and heartfelt science that presides over the destiny of true music. The opening track, “Beyond,” showcases in just over two minutes the greatness of this album; the art of occupying space and time in trio, tugging at the heartstrings of each in harmony, of melting the parts of a boundless imagination in the crucible of a true and unfailing intelligence.
It is indeed a key step in Cohen’s long-term quest for the absolute and for purity. The art of this trio is rich and condensed; swarming with new ideas, reduced to the essential and crossed by a thousand subtly harmonized shades. From Darkness unveils itself as a strong, contentious beauty, that’s aware of its strengths and its vulnerability, Avishai confirms, “Our trio was so united that the music just flew, in one single stream, in one entity. We present it very purely, without any distractions, of any kind. This includes when we highlight the groove, the trance and the rhythm that define my signature style which feeds and contributes to the positive energy throughout the album.”
In Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem,” he wrote these penetrating lines: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” It is through these majestic flaws, carved by humans and musicianship, that From Darkness lets the light radiate from an art that, more than ever, can legitimately claim to reach the truth of the human soul.
Avishai Cohen, bass
Avishai Cohen (born April 20, 1970 in Kibbutz Kabri, Israel) is an Israeli jazz bassist, composer, singer and arranger.
Cohen’s signature sound is a blend of Middle-Eastern, eastern European and African-American musical idioms. The New York Times describes his 2006 album Continuo as conjoining “heavy Middle Eastern groove with a delicate, almost New Age lyricism.” Cohen often sings in Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino), to which he has connection through his mother. For example, ‘Morenika,’ from his album Aurora, is a very famous Ladino song he grew up hearing his mother singing around the house.
Cohen has accompanied, recorded or performed with noted jazz figures such as Chick Corea, Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Nnenna Freelon and Paquito D’Rivera. Other collaborators include Claudia Acuña (Wind from the South, 2000), Alicia Keys (studio recordings) and the London and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras (concert performances). Cohen has been cited as “undoubtedly the most successful” of Israel’s jazz exports by The Jerusalem Post, a “jazz visionary of global proportions” by Down Beat, one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player magazine, and “a great composer” and “a genius musician” by Chick Corea himself.
Nitai Hershkovits, piano
Nitai Hershkovits (born February 21, 1988) is an Israeli Jazz pianist and composer. He is mostly known from collaborating with international bassist and composer Avishai Cohen in the studio and on tour.
Born in Israel, Hershkovits started playing the clarinet at the age of 12, only to discover his love for the piano at 15. He was then exposed for the first time to the playing of jazz pianists Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark.
Hershkovits has performed and collaborated with many noted artists; among them Jorge Rossy, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Greg Tardy, Charles Davis, Mark Giuliana, Zohar Fresco, Avi Lebovich, Daniel Zamir, and flutist Ilan Salem.
He was awarded with the highest scholarship given by the Israel-American Music Foundation on four occasions in a row between the years of 2004 and 2010.
Daniel Dor, drums
Daniel Dor is an Israeli-American jazz drummer and percussionist. Dor was born in Tel Aviv to a family of musicians and artists. He graduated from the prestigious Thelma-Yellin High School, Rimon School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and is currently completing his studies at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. He has attended numerous jazz festivals around the world, received 3 merit grants from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, as well as scholarships from the New School and Berklee College of Music among others. He enjoys music, he says, because it enables him to reach places way beyond the imagination, mentally, physically and emotionally.