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13,248 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 667 of them this year alone and, so far, 75 this month (May 16).

Coming soon ...



May 20: Vieux Carré Jazzmen at The Holystone (Indoors!)
May 20 Maine Street Jazzmen are back at Sunniside Social Club. 8:30pm start.
May 23: Vieux Carré Hot Four are back at The Spanish City.

June 21: Jazz in the Afternoon are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club. (Revised date).
June 23: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club. (Revised date).

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Album review: Avishai Cohen w. Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra - Two Roses

Avishai  Cohen (bass vocal); Elchin Shirinov (piano); Mark Giuliana (drums) + Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Alexander Hanson) 

The technicolor Director’s Cut” of the Israeli bass master’s small group’s biggest hits! Cohen has previously augmented his outstanding groups to include strings, but this goes a step further, with a 92-strong leviathan orchestra expanding a selection of his old favourites to the epic symphonic scale.  While the undeniable rhythmic and melodic intensity of his Arab/folk tunes suggest they would survivthis enlargement, I have to say I had doubts whether they would benefit from it.   

 

My first listen was in the lockdown home barber shop, where my drummer son’s formidable manual dexterity was put to good use scaling back my overgrown locks.  Although the erstwhile trimmer does an excellent job, his slow but sure method ensured we had plenty of time to savour all 12 songs on the whole 60 minute album, as well as a bottle of Old Peculier to calm the (customer’s at least!) nerves.

  

This first outing left me intrigued but underwhelmed in respect ocomparison with the vibrant and agile originals, and the hair cut was altogether more of a success!  However, as Cohen himself notes: Of course, 80 people won’t play a beat like two or three people would. There’s a kind of inertia, which you have to get used to, and you have to understand how they breathe. It’s like a horse, at once beautiful, powerful and delicate.”   With this in mind, subsequent listening was conducted with the benefit of full high quality stereo reproduction with sub-wooferand no tonsorial distractions.   In such near-concert hall conditions (!) there is a majestic sweep to the music, which will appeal to many audiences across the classical and popular spectrum - the real thing would no doubt be stunning. 

 

Cohen marshals the orchestra’s resources with some aplomb, approaching Mahlerian in places, with swooning tuttis, strutting bass section pizzicatos  and majestic Wunderhorns, mingled with stirring melodies borne by the well drilled violins and wind sections. And yet, despite the accuracy and power of the orchestra, in most cases I felt the beating heart of his music was diminished in this deluxe treatment.  Worse, there are several egregious forays into the twee vocals of his later albums, especially When I’m Falling and Nature Boy, where Cohen comes across as a journeyman Kurt Elling.  The instrumental A Child is Born (Thad Jones 1969) is a curious choice, with the schmaltz relieved only by a nice bass solo. 

 

The high spots are unsurprisingly the songs with the strongest tunes, which retain the jaunty folk rhythms, and showcase the power trio of Cohen, Guiliana and Shirinov. The magnificent Song for My Brother gains some new brass voices,  while the traditional, bouncing title song is one of the few with obviously improvised sections. These featura great piano break and some subtle yet powerful drumming, which also feature on Emotional Storm.  Likewise, Arab Medley makes the most of the catchy rhythms, with some authentic and rich sung lines.  

 

But these few songs are the exception, and my final verdict is the same post hair-cut – while this album may attract some new listeners, the definitive jazz versions remaiCohen’s outstanding small group originals and this de luxe treatment is something of an indulgence.  

 

Chris K 


Try/buy CD, Double Vinyl LP 


Label: 
Naïve/BelieveCatalogue Number: M7370, 
 Release Date : 16/04/2021 

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