Avishai Cohen's Triveni, Vortex Jazz Club, review: 'clear what all the fuss is about'

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Monday December 15, 2014

From The Telegraph

Avishai Cohen’s Triveni, Vortex Jazz Club, review: ‘clear what all the fuss is about’
By: Ivan Hewett

The Israeli trumpeter revealed himself to be a magnificent player and composer who sits squarely in the great jazz tradition, says Ivan Hewett

Not to be confused with the well-known bass player of the same name, this tall, smilingly benign and magnificently bearded Israeli trumpeter appeared last night alongside his current trio of bassist Yoni Zelnek and drummer Nasheet Waits. Cohen has created quite a stir in jazz circles, winning the DownBeat critics’ poll for Best Newcomer three years in succession. Within about two minutes, it was clear what all the fuss is about.

Cohen didn’t belabour us with clever Balkan rhythms, constant shrieking high notes, or limply formulaic patterns. He simply revealed himself to be a magnificent player and composer who sits squarely in the great tradition, and makes much out of familiar things. We heard a number of his own originals, mingled in with some standards, and the striking thing was how hard it was to tell one from the other. His own pieces had a pithy melodic shapeliness, arousing memories of something you couldn’t quite put your finger on. And the standards were so thoroughly reinvented they sounded new-minted and richly strange.

When every number was golden, it’s hard to know which one to pick out. In You in All Directions, Cohen made interesting play with the simplest things ‘” a descending chromatic line, a common chord transposed every which way ‘” before spiralling off into dizzying fantasy (just for once we caught a rhapsodic quality evocative of the synagogue, or maybe Middle-Eastern folk-song, Yoni Zelnek’s bass shadowing Cohen’s melancholy line before sprinting back down to the bass region). Cohen’s agility as a trumpeter shone out in October 25th, his little rocketing phrases emerging clear as a bell. They were pinioned across a fascinating rhythmic cross-weave from the other two, which evoked swing and a solid rock back-beat at once.

This pointed to the evening’s other main fascination, alongside Cohen’s melodic inventiveness: the amazing rhythmic interplay. Sometimes we seemed to be faced with three extraordinarily inventive drummers, two of whom just happened to play trumpet and bass. November 30th (Cohen likes to name pieces after significant dates, in this case his mother’s birthday), was a mysterious keening number where Nasheet Wait’s teasing pianissimo cross-rhythm kept us on the edge of our seats. The penultimate number, Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life they turned into a huge, powerful bluesy number.

Nasheet Waits dropped his great cavernous off-beat thwacks from a huge height, in a way that made the audience squirm and whoop with delight.

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