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IT IS ADVISABLE TO CHECK IN ADVANCE WITH THE VENUE THAT THE GIG IS ON

SUNDAY 20

Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

Riviera Quartet - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8:00pm. A limited number of seats are available which MUST be bought in advance online. £7:50 or £5:45 live stream only.

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Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Maine St Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Sunniside Road, Sunniside NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:00pm - 10pm. Free. Note earlier start/finish.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

CD Review: Playing the Room - Avishai Cohen, Yonathan Avishai


Avishai Cohen  (trumpet),  Yonathan Avishai   (piano)
(Review by Chris Kilsby)

The first of two outstanding ECM releases this month - both led by trumpet players - this one a duo with piano.  The horn here is that of New York based Israeli Avishai Cohen, not to be confused with the virtuoso bass player of the same name who has been on the scene rather longer.  This Avishai mostly follows a cool and detached jazz dialect here, by contrast to his compatriot namesake’s famously strong Middle Eastern groove. Until digesting this release, I had the trumpeter down as the lesser of the two Cohens, but now I’m not so sure, especially after the bass player’s recent lapse into popular vocals! 


The album is recorded with customary ECM clarity in the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, resulting in, as claimed in the notes, a resonant, chamber music quality. It is an enthralling, relaxed and subtle statement across the thoughtful end of modern jazz, but built on material for the standards lovers to enjoy.   
Cohen deploys a remarkable range of technique and effects across a variety of material and styles. That’s not to say this is a show off “master class” – the album oozes musical integrity and taste, mostly through under-stated and winding melodic lines, with breathy or blasting interjections, and upper register pyrotechnics tastefully deployed where needed.  

My resident trumpet student was mighty impressed, raving over the echoes of Kenny Wheeler, muted Miles and more.   Such up front  technique and inclusion of so many covers raises the suspicion that Cohen is still looking for a voice of his own, but this is dispelled by the expressive and sensitive tracks here.

Only the first two tracks are originals, the rest being “original” interpretations of classics ranging in time from Duke Ellington to Ornette Coleman.  The first, Opening, by Cohen, sets the tone for the album with thoughtful and lyrical exchanges both solo and duo. Cohen plays sumptuous lines, with a distinctive modern edge, and wastes few notes.  The second, Two Lines, by the pianist, stretches further, with piercing trumpet anchored by complex and subtle harmony and pulse from piano – no drummer needed here!

For the remaining covers, in date order,  Azalea by Duke is lovingly caressed with muted horn and subtle block chords, while Coltrane’s Crescent is a spacious and even more languid rendition than the 1964 original, with soaring but sensitive top end.  The hornless MJQ’s modal 1955 Ralph’s New Blues finally gets a horn part, and both players seem to enjoy exchanging the lead and toying with time.  

Sir Duke is a departure from the other more or less conventional interpretations – this is a very stripped back and restrained version of Stevie Wonder’s jaunty full band and vocals 1976 tribute to Ellington. 

Abdullah Ibrahim’s Kofifi Blue is more upbeat, and a worthy version of the solo piano 1996 original. Here the trumpet sketches lyrically over restrained Cape style piano, and although the trumpet will take the plaudits for most listeners, Yonathan Avishai’s playing and soloing is sensitive and compelling throughout the album. Their long partnership reaches a rare level of intuition, with free soloing by both alongside conventional interlocking combinations and occasional precise doubling.

Ornette Coleman’s Dee Dee is given a more relaxed and sparse, but still engaging, treatment than the 2001 original. The album closes with my favourite,  Shir Eres, a delicate and exquisitely played traditional lullaby.

Overall, not a landmark due to the preponderance of covers, but a strongly recommended listen for students of trumpet (and piano!). Already a repeat listening favourite – the reflective and calm mood a good antidote for the strident chaos of recent weeks’ current affairs.
Touring all over Europe, but not in the UK as far as I can see. Seems in keeping with the times...

Chris K
Release date: 06.09.2019 ECM 2641 Format CD LP    Recorded September 2018

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