Conversation with Avishai Cohen
AAJ: To me, it was so distinctive because it was almost a sound essay on the transformation of jazz piano playing from the almost straight classical influence all the way to the more avant-garde styles of Cecil Taylor etc. Which also seemed to reflect the album as a whole.
AC: That's very interesting.
AAJ: Incorporating all these different influences into one line of development.
AAJ: I want to ask you a little more about that. You already said it, that you don't do anything the traditional way. In the jazz world'maybe even more than in other areas'the term crossing over is used a lot. Some people would label this a cross-over album. What do you think about that kind of term?
AC: I never think too much about those things as a creator. I don't have concepts. I don't think about those things that actually come back to me from other people later on. I'm very respectful of [them]. It's very interesting. It's like you throw an idea out and then it causes this thing where people want to think about it and talk about it which is the best thing about what we do. But as the one conceiving of it doesn't really matter to me if it's cross-over or not. I mean, in the idea of it. If it's gonna reach more people rather than the straight ahead, than great. It was never an intention though to it that way, it just happens. I think all my records have that. It's just that this one really goes'it's like there is something for everyone. So in that sense I'm happy of course. If that's what's called cross over, then coool.
AAJ: I almost never ask these types of questions, but this album made me think about how we define jazz. In terms of now we're in the 2000s. Where are we now as jazz fans? What does it mean?
AC: Sure, sure,
AAJ: Stealy Dan is out there, there are electronica musicians who sample heavily from jazz, and jazz musicians that use sampling, and this album incorporates so many of these techniques, that I have to ask you where is jazz right now?
AC: Where is jazz? I don't know, I don't know where jazz is. Jazz to me, the sound of jazz is Monk and Mingus and Ellington, and jazz is anything that has something to do with that, but to me I'm just happy to big a part of music that's improvised'that's the connection to jazz for me. Musicians that can improvise. But at the same time, I really consider myself just a musician. Someone who loves music and is reflecting on anything. I don't know, maybe jazz is where and a few other people are, or maybe not. [Laughter] Sorry, it's really hard for me to say.
AAJ: It's an open-ended questions. There are so many responses. My two favorites are Duke Ellington's and Louis Armstrong. Ellington said there are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music.
AC: I love that. It's one of my favorite responses too. I think it's brilliant. It just shows how brilliant he was. You can call him whatever you want to call him, but he was simply a creative beautiful musician.
AAJ: The same with Louis Armstrong's answer. He was asked, "What's jazz?" he answered, "Jazz is what you are".
AC: Yeah. Exactly. Wow. Beautiful.
AAJ: Going back to the individual tracks, I wanted to ask about your relationship with Chick Corea. There's that incredible duet. How did you start playing together?
AC: Some of my music was handed over to him. One of my first endeavors. I had a band here in New York around '96, '97 and he loved it and called me one day in New York and was basically very excited about my music and asked me if I wanted to sign with him and play with him. It was a very exciting thing. That's basically how it started to make a very long story very short.
AAJ: Playing with him do you primarily play on bass?
AC: Yes. I play bass only with him. As he is the best pianist in the world, I'm not needed.
AAJ: Has that experience playing with him effected your music?
AC: Oh sure. It's shaped me as a musician like no other thing would. I mean, he's a genius of music I can only thank'I don't know who'the gods, the lord. I'm very, very grateful that he chose me, that he embraced me and continues to embrace me as a very inspiring entity for him. It's a very, very incredible relationship.
AAJ: Will you continue to play with him?
AC: Yeah, I'm touring with him in November in Europe. We're doing a few tours a year. I'm much more busy doing my own stuff now, which is great. He, of course, is always doing stuff. But it's a very deep connection that we have so we stay connected and we play. The reason I have him on the record is that I wanted to show the connection that we have musically which is very emotional. I don't know, it's a life connection.
AAJ: You can here in the interaction you have that it's more than just'I don't want to say just'but just musical. There's a lot going on there.
AAJ: What's the next step for Razdaz?