Avishai Cohen

The Trumpet Player

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Avishai Cohen, the trumpet player (not to be confused with the bassist/keyboardist of the same name), comes from a rich musical heritage in his native Israel. His sister is clarinetist Anat Cohen, his brother saxophonist Yuval Cohen, and together they front a fine progressive/contemporary jazz group, 3 Cohens. For his debut CD as a leader, the trumpeter has chosen a trumpet/bass/drums format, challenging because there are no chordal instruments to play off of. The sparseness of the instrumentation means there's nothing to lean on, play off of, or hold back from. This lends itself to the burnished attack and matted finish the horn offers, but also can tend to lead to overly lengthy stretches where Cohen's playing has to constantly command attention and remain interesting to the listener. Certainly drummer Jeff Ballard (also a member of the other Avishai Cohen's bands) is more than valiant in keeping the rhythm navigation on an intriguing keel. Two ten-and-a-half-minute tracks, "The Trumpet Player" and "Shablool," could be virtually the same piece, both in waltz time, both drawn out and singular-minded, both more treatise than short story. "The Fast" is a neo-bop, upbeat jam that displays Cohen's clean lines and angular ideas. Clearly influenced by hard boppers like Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, and Freddie Hubbard, Cohen takes those precepts and turns them into inexhaustible Zen-like epics. Tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm is added, but plays after the fact on the 5/4 exercise "Olympus," taking the first solo, while a welcome interchange during "Idaho" mixes the group dynamic in a manner reminiscent of the partnership between Don Cherry and John Coltrane. The trio does a nice version of Coltrane's "Dear Lord" in 4/4 to implied 3/4, while Frahm jumps in as a soloist only for Ornette Coleman's choppy "Giggin'," where Cohen leaps out of his shell after a playful intro from Ballard and before a deft solo from bassist John Sullivan. The Trumpet Player is a first effort with loads of potential, and as Avishai Cohen's career goes ahead, there will be many collaborators to join with and concepts to explore. This CD sports clear, present, and solid musicianship, but if there is a shortcoming to the proceedings, it is the sameness or lack of variety that prevents the music from becoming great. That should happen in due time.

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