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3 Cohens: Tightrope

Dan Bilawsky By

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It shouldn't come as a shock that the 3 Cohens stress the idea of interconnectedness in their music; soprano saxophonist Yuval Cohen, multi-reedist Anat Cohen and trumpeter Avishai Cohen are, after all, blood. With albums like One (Anzic, 2004), Braid (Anzic, 2007) and Family (Anzic, 2011), these three horn-playing siblings have made it clear that they're forever linked to one another in life and music, but they don't always address these bonds in the same fashion. Braid, for example, was all about a horns-and-rhythm band dynamic, with stylistic diversity and sonic consistency at the heart of the matter. Tightrope, on the other hand, is about making a mold and breaking a mold.

Tightrope is a multifaceted outing with bountiful helpings of horns-only music and tangential offerings that allow for other parties to join in on the action. The 3 Cohens, sans guests, work through originals, classics and spur-of-the- moment "Conversation" pieces that highlight a shared chemistry and wit. They reference saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's What Is There To Say? (Columbia, 1959) via bluesy performances of "Festive Minor" and "Blueport," touch on bop with "Hot House," look back to Louis Armstrong with "Indiana," and return to their roots with "Ai Li Lu Li Lu," a Yiddish lullaby that their mother sang to them as children. The five "Conversation" tracks, the longest of which runs just over two minutes, aren't fully formed pieces, yet they provide a window into the relationship(s) between these masterful musicians. Avishai's brief-and-hip "Mantra" doesn't fall into either the history-based or open source categories of music, yet it deserves mention precisely for this reason; it's a hip-as-hell album closer that stands just fine on its own.

While the a cappella horns album idea would have worked top-to-bottom, the lure of collaboration put the kibosh on that firm concept. Pianist Fred Hersch appears on several tracks, bassist Christian McBride drops in for a trip through "Just Squeeze Me," and drummer Jonathan Blake adds a little oomph to the program during Avishai's down-and-dirty "Black." All parties mesh well with the horns and bring new dimensions to the program.

With each and every album, the 3 Cohens have furthered the scope of their music and broadened the definition of togetherness. They may take risks, walking tightropes with nary a net in sight, but they do so together, with hearts and minds linked through music.

Track Listing: Blueport; Conversation #1; Song Without Words #4: Duet; Conversation #2; Black; Just Squeeze Me; Hot House; There's No You; Estate; Conversation #3; Indiana; I Mean You; It Might As Well; Festive Minor; Conversation #4; Conversation #5; Ai Li Lu Li Lu; Mantra.

Personnel: Anat Cohen: clarinet(s) and tenor saxophone; Avishai Cohen: trumpets; Yuval Cohen: soprano saxophone; Fred Hersch: piano (3, 9, 12); Christian McBride: bass (6); Johnathan Blake: drums (5).

Title: Tightrope | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Anzic Records


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