After a dozen albums as leader and a career that has seen him perform with Chick Corea, Mark Guiliana and Alicia Keys, Almah finds bassist Avishai Cohen returning to his first loves. Those "first loves," according to the press notes, are classical music and, more particularly, chamber music. Almah is a return to these loves, but with a healthy dose of Middle Eastern inspiration and at least one certified jazz standard (Thad Jones' "A Child Is Born," which receives a graceful and mellow interpretation here).
Although the credits state "All songs written and composed by Avishai Cohen" the exceptions to this rule are in the majority. Six tunes come from composers such as Jones, Moshe Vilensky and Nachum Hayman. Five tunes are Cohen's, including "Linearity," which combines with Vladimir Zakharov's "On A Black Horse."
The return to first loves means that Almah is much more of a classical music album than it is a jazz album. The instrumental line up puts the emphasis on strings, oboe and English horn. "Overture 'Noam' Op.1"a floating, beautifully-paced, composition from Cohengives a strong hint just by its title. Yoram Lachish's oboe features strongly, while Cohen's decision to use two violas beefs up the string quartet's middle and lower registers.
The jazz breaks throughCohen's electric bass on "On A Black Horse/Linearity" or his punchy pizzicato double bass on "Song For My Brother," the drumming of Ofri Nehemya, Nitai Hershkovits' sparkling piano solo on Hayman's "Kefel." It never overwhelms the classical influences however: but at its best this music combines its stylistic influences beautifullymost exquisitely on Cohen's "Hayo Hayta."
If the neat classification of music by genre is crucial, then Almah will prove to be an exercise in frustration. If the pleasure of listening to beautifully-crafted music, beautifully played, is paramount then Almah fits the bill.
Overture “Noam” Op.1; Song For My Brother; On A Black Horse/Linearity; A Child Is Born; Arab Medley; Southern Lullaby; Hayo Hayta; Shlosre; Kefel; Kumi Venetze Hasadeh.
Avishai Cohen: double bass, electric bass, vocals (10); Nitai Hershkovits: piano; Ofri Nehemya: drums; Cordelia Hagmann: violin; Amit Landau: viola; Noam Haimovitz Weinschel: viola; Yael Shapira: cello; Yoram Lachish: oboe, English horn; Amir Bresler: drums (10); Keren Tannenbaum: violin (10); Galia Hai: viola (10).