Avishai Cohen: Trio Innovation

Frederick Bernas By

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Avishai Cohen
Ronnie Scott's, London
Friday, August 24

This was the first time I'd visited London's legendary jazz venue since its recent swanky refurbishment; still dimly lit, but with a classier kind of ambience, Ronnie's barely allows punters to appreciate the photos of great jazz musicians adorning every wall.

One man well on the way to joining this still illustrious company is Avishai Cohen. The Israeli bassist, with his acoustic trio of Shai Maestro (piano) and Mark Guiliana (drums), is seriously pushing the boundaries of creativity in the jazz medium. "One for Mark" featured a forceful opening riff followed by fluid, undulating piano passages and a variety of innovative techniques from Cohen. Throughout the night he approached the bass from many different angles, both physically and technically, including frequent use of percussive strikes to the shoulders of the instrument.

There was not a standard to be heard; Cohen even announced they were "trying new stuff and sometimes "didn't know what was going to happen." To a certain extent, unpredictability is always the case in jazz, but on this evening it was true to a greater degree than normal. Drummer Giuliana played with an uncommon minute sensitivity, carefully listening to the others and edging them along with delicate variations on the beat. 20- year-old Maestro was given the somewhat monotonous role of vamping set chords for most of the night, but he avoided repetition and possesses a natural gift for elegant phrasing.

Such a restricted role is a sacrifice the pianist has to make in this new conception of the jazz trio, in which no instrument takes the lead for a sustained period. Although—as expected—Cohen did have a few notable moments in the spotlight, the music was more about exploring group interplay than focusing on any individual. The audience was taken through a neverending passage of hypnotic changes, with what seemed to be bright, airy compositions shifting to dark, intensive jams within the space of a few short moments.

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