As recent stellar performances at the world’s major venues have shown Israeli double-bassist-composer-vocalist Avishai Cohen is at the peak of his creative powers. Those who have followed Cohen’s career in the past fifteen years or so will know that his musical references reach far and wide, moving seamlessly from classical to jazz and traditional songs. Cohen plays and sings magnificently, and often gives vent to his love of melody as well as the art of improvisation. Cohen’s new album 1970 highlights the more accessible side of his talent without compromising his artistic integrity.
“It’s not a jazz record,” he explains. “I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always had a connection to pop. I like pop as much as I like Bach and Charlie Parker.
Singing has become very serious in my life over time. I’ve been asked by many people, when is the vocal album gonna come? Well, this is it, right here.”
An entirely worthy successor to 2015’s From Darkness, 1970 is arguably Cohen’s offering to date that has the greatest mainstream appeal, as it sees the bassist-vocalist unveil 12 pieces that range from heartfelt original songs in English such as Emptiness and Blinded to spirited reprises of Middle Eastern folk songs. Cohen and a superb band that includes regular percussionist Itamar Doari, oud player-guitarist Elyasaf Bishari, keyboardist Jonatan Daskal, drummer Tal Kohavi, cellist Yael Shapira and vocalist Karen Malka, who featured on previous Cohen releases, have fine-tuned arrangements that are enviably concise and radio-friendly.
Unity, compassion and togetherness have been recurrent themes in Cohen’s work to date, and he expresses those feelings vividly on pieces such as Song Of Hope. “I suppose the album is very much like a personal diary, with a lot of emotional stuff. I had to write Song Of Hope because of the state of the world and the times in which we are living.”
Cohen sketches out a more confessional landscape on numbers such as My Lady and Move On, where he broaches the joy of love and the pain of heartbreak, drawing on the vocabulary of classic songwriters such as Stevie Wonder, the soul music genius who has had a great influence on several generations of jazz artists.
“Titles are always difficult,” Cohen argues. “l wanted something specific but open and decided the music would be a throwback to and have a spiritual connection with the 70s. All my influences are almost African and definitely African-American, like Stevie, soul and funk which came before hip-hop, I like that too. I think that all of these influences are obvious, and I wanted a stamp that was clear. It had to be 1970.”
|Brand||Masterworks / Sony|
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