Trumpeter Avishai Cohen makes his ECM leader debut with Into the Silence, an album dedicated to the memory of his late father. Cohen composed the melodies over six months following his father's passing in November 2014, inspired by an album of Rachmaninoff's solo piano music. It's not always sad musicthis is not a collection of dirgesbut it does maintain a contemplative mood throughout. Cohen says "The title of the song and album refers to the silence of absence, the way you see pictures of someone who is gone but you don't really hear them in your life anymore."
Cohen found an empathetic group to share this personal vision. The core quartet features him and two longtime collaborators: pianist Yonathan Avishai (a decade-long co-member in multicultural band Third World Love) and busy New York drummer Nasheet Waits (also in Cohen's trio Triveni). Bassist Eric Revis, a mainstay of the Branford Marsalis Quartet for two decades, has also been a rhythm section partner with Waits in multiple bands. Tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry joins in on three tracks (he has played with Paul Motian and Andrew Cyrille, but had previously only played with Cohen informally).
Cohen's muted sound on the melancholy opening ballad "Life And Death" establishes the tone of the album from the start (including the unexpected double-time coda, a sign of the compositional thought behind the seemingly loose ensemble sound). He has a beautiful muted tone, which unavoidably recalls Miles Davis playing ballads. "Dream Like A Child" features a gorgeous, rhapsodic piano solo, as well as the first appearance of McHenry's saxophone. It's a remarkably selfless performance: on this and the title track, he is limited almost exclusively to an ensemble role, chiefly playing thematic material with Cohen, plus some brief call and response. He doesn't take an extended solo until his last appearance on "Behind The Broken Glass."
Welcome though McHenry's playing is, the balance seems just right. The focus stays on the core quartet, with just a bit of additional color for variety. Special mention should be made of pianist Avishai's playing throughout, both as soloist and accompanist. He gets the last word, playing "Life And DeathEpilogue" solo. I have to wonder whether knowing the background of the inspiration for this music colors the perception of itit seems unlikely that a listener encountering these tracks blind would guess what they were "about." It's beautiful music regardless, and clearly has a unity earned by the the consistent spirit in the composing as well as the spontaneous approach that the group took to this performance.
Life And Death; Dream Like A Child; Into The Silence; Quiescence; Behind The Broken Glass; Life And Death - Epilogue.
Avishai Cohen: trumpet; Yonathan Avishai: piano; Eric Revis: double bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone.
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