As if it weren't enough spending their formative years in each other's constant company, on August 18 of last year the children of Bilha and David Cohen cut their first album together, subjecting themselves to the overwhelming pressures of one-day studio recording pressures that have historically frustrated musicians who were blissfully ignorant of their session mates' full catalogue of quirks and idiosyncrasies.
In the case of Yuval, Anat and Avishai Cohen, familiarity has bred success. One is a diverse, alluring and evocative disc, one which almost flaunts the power and uniqueness of the family dynamic. Listen to the way they pass the shifting motif of "Shablul" to one another, shaping and refining it individually, and finally joining to embellish and reaffirm it together. Not that the Cohens' approach to musicmaking is purely nepotistic. Guitarist Amos Hoffman, bassist Gilad Abro and drummer Shay Zelman augment the trio into a strong sextet, complimenting and driving their musical ideas. The 3 Cohens acknowledge this debt perhaps: it's Hoffman, Abro and Zelman who kick off the album and pave the way for Avishai's satiny trumpet.
Moving beyond musical metaphors for their bonds as siblings and musicians, the group unites the swing of jazz and the exultation of klezmer in the Yuval Cohen chart "In Amirim." Hoffman's "Shicolico" does the same to a lesser degree, but this time with a sly, funky bite in place of the swing. They collectively introduce an element of world music on "Shir Ha'Emek," inviting the elder Cohens for a few bars of vocals; the song is dedicated to one of Yuval's influential mentors, the late Ziko Gratsiani.
The performances are consistently accomplished, though on rare occasions they can become so light of touch that they seem almost limp. To take "For My Brother and Sister" as the most obvious example, here no Cohen seems bold enough to step forward at the risk of leaving the other two behind. The combined voices of reeds and brass tend to pool anonymously in the background instead of commingling in the foremost position, leaving that instead to Hoffman's guitar vamp.
There is, however, no point on One in which the 3 Cohens are content to be merely adequate. Their début album is an excellent showcase for the siblings as composers and performers, both individually and as a group. All three of them have ongoing solo projects and musically distinct careers, but as the rather sugarily sentimental liner notes openly acknowledge, they benefit most from convening and tapping into the unique relationships forged during their childhood.
Visit 3 Cohens online.
Personnel: Avishai Cohen (trumpet, vocals); Anat Cohen (tenor sax, clarinet, vocals); Yuval Cohen (soprano sax,
vocals); Amos Hoffman (guitar, oud); Gilad Abro (bass, vocals); Shay Zelman (drums); Bilha and David
Cohen (vocals on "Shir Ha'Emek")