Bassist Avishai Cohen's fourth Stretch release marks the debut of a new project, the International Vamp Band, which first went public in early 2001 in a series of performances at the Jazz Gallery in New York. Interestingly, Cohen is the band's pianist. He leaves the upright bass duties to Yagil Baras and only occasionally overdubs lines on electric bass. The other musicians are Diego Urcola on trumpet and flügelhorn, Yosvany Terry on alto and tenor saxophones and chekere, Avi Lebovich on trombone and flute, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. (Cohen's bass student Bryan Keleen guests on "Island Man.") While Cohen's piano playing is not virtuosic (although it comes close on the solo piece "Pause"), his intention is simply to approach bandleading from a different vantage point. Perhaps as a direct result, this new music boasts a rather expansive harmonic palette. It's hypnotic, as the term "vamp" would suggest, and it's often downright soothing -- which is appropriate, given that Cohen intended the album as a prayer for peace, particularly in his native Israel, which was descending into a state of war at the time of this recording.
by David R. Adler