Conversation with Avishai Cohen
AC: So we kind of fooled around with a few things and we came up with this fast groove that brought the idea for me to write something around it, and that's "Handsonit" which brought this whole thing where I wrote a horn line to go with it and it becomes almost a Jungle thing.
AAJ: If you didn't know what album it came from, you might think it came off an Earache record.
AC: Exactly. And some of the samples that you hear on some tracks are just sounds that I dumped'I have an XP-30 Roland, I used a few sounds from there'or there's some sample of this comedian Jim Norton. There's different stuff that we dumped to Mark's computer and then Mark explored with it over the tracks, and we just liked a few things and did it that way.
AAJ: That's a very different method compared to so-called traditional jazz recording.
AC: Oh, forget traditional jazz. I've never done that. Not to say anything against it. I think I have a lot of roots in traditional jazz so then it comes out when I do anything else because there are roots in my music, but I never go by whatever.
AAJ: I also wanted to ask about "How Long?" I read the notes you sent that referenced your friend that was killed.
AAJ: And considering all the things that are happening now in the Middle East, do you see that as a protest song of some kind?
AC: The song definitely has a political message to it. I don't find myself'I don't do that a lot it just happened where I was writing a tune and at the same time that thing happened and it effected me emotionally and I kind of derived it from that and the song became kind of a political message tune. I can't avoid the struggle, the suffering, the horrible situation that I'm a part of. Even though I live here I am from Israel. I'm hurting when they are hurting. It came about like that. Also, the last few years I've been exploring some songwriting with people and being involved with that also brought me to the song, you know? Or the decision to include it.
AAJ: What is your perspective on what has been going on in Israel?
AC: Pretty much what I say in the song. I don't believe that we are right. I don't think that they are right, actually. I would say it's better to blame yourself first'not even blame yourself'ask yourself are you maybe wrong in some things and correct your side, correct what you do and maybe hope for enlightenment from the other side. There's a deep hatred at this point. It's pretty obvious that each side should give up a lot. It's the only way. I always keep my hope. I believe it's gonna be all right, even thought it's very hard to believe that anymore, but I really do believe it's going to be O.K. I don't know anymore. It's very frustrating. It's a very painful situation.
AAJ: Yes it is. For everyone. Do you think politics and art can mix?
AC: Nothing necessarily mixes unless it's your decision. It's your vision that mixes. Everything is mixed'or not. It's really a very delicate and open situation. Music mixes with anything because it is so vague and so magical. So, yes, depending on how open you are as a listener or an absorber and how open you are as a writer and as a reflector.
AAJ: I also wanted to talk about "Structure in Emotion" which was really one of the highlights for me. To me, it starts of almost in a classical area'
AAJ:'and then develops into a more fragmentary style. I was wondering if you could talk about the origin of the composition.
AC: There's a pianist in New York named Harry Whitaker. He's an older guy that is an incredible pianist. He used to be Roberta Flack's musical director. He's a jazz/pop/R&B artist that plays in this place Arturo's, this little restaurant downtown three times a week. I've known him for awhile. He's an incredible musician. He's one of my favorite piano players. He has incredible chord knowledge and is just a tasty, tasty musician. So every one in awhile I go down there and check out his playing and ask him about some chords. About a year ago he showed me this chord that's like pretty much a mirror chord. You play [Cohen proceeded to key a chord while speaking] two fifths on the left hand like C G D and then you go half step above and do the same thing from E-flat. Which is an amazing sounding chord. The next day I messed around with that kind of thing, that kind of sound and then I came up with this whole thing that goes [Cohen played again]. I just took it'usually what happens with me if I'm affected by something, by anyone, I take it and I absorb it and it goes to my own world. That is what happened and the composition came out of that. The whole first part'the more classical part'evolved into this thing where it goes toward a more rhythmic place which is very specific to me, or stuff that I do on the piano that are very rhythmic and percussive. I really don't know how to explain these things. It just evolved.