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A Conversation with Avishai Cohen

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Wednesday October 29, 2014

From Music & Literature

A Conversation with Avishai Cohen
By: Jesse Ruddock

Avishai Cohen has been working since he was ten, when his job was to stand on a soap box and play trumpet for a big band. Raised in Tel Aviv, the youngest of three jazz prodigies in one house, his music is persistently lyrical, often sublime, and intensely playful. Cohen stands out on stage in a way that’s athletic: his lead’s to follow. What the body has to do with the soul can be heard in the tone of his trumpet, that strange precise math of breath and spirit. On Dark Nights, the third and latest album from his trio Triveni—with Omer Avital on bass and drums by Nasheet Waits—Cohen’s tone is clearer than any voice. The songs all go slow but never keep you waiting to find out what they’re trying to mean.

This interview took place high above Broadway Avenue in Manhattan, one afternoon before Cohen played three sets through midnight with the Mark Turner Quartet. We sat talking on a broad windowsill and shared a good view of a neighbor’s balcony garden, still blooming big in September. About halfway through the conversation, Cohen pulled out his trumpet case to show first the silver mute he uses to practice on airplanes, then a series of four mouthpieces cut into heavy pendants. At concerts and in most photographs, you can see Cohen wearing one of these things, tied long around his neck, falling somewhere to midchest. Not just oddly beautiful, they are apparently good for buzzing, and are much his own invention, tools of the trade to keep his lips in shape.

For over two hours, Cohen was cheerful, generous, but exhausted, having just arrived from Tokyo two days before. It was early yet in a two-and-a-half-month tour, a long time to be away from his family in Tel Aviv. On this tour, there would be more Triveni, more Mark Turner Quartet, in addition to mini-tours with the all-star SF Jazz Collective and The Three Cohens—that’s Avishai, his sister Anat, and brother Yuval. Under one roof, these three were born golden-throated, which seems impossibly rare. But even more striking is they all knew what to do about it.

To read the full interview, click here