Since his emergence in Chick Corea’s trio in 1997, the Israeli-born double bassist Avishai Cohen has become a global star for his bass sound that joins cello-like purity to percussive drama, and for original compositions embracing American jazz, Latin music, Sephardic-Jewish folk song, avant-funk, orchestral works, even pop-tinged vocals.
Cohen’s 2021 album Two Roses was a sympathetic jazz/classical collaboration with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, while 2019’s Arvoles was the opposite: an elegant chamber-musical expansion of the intimacies of a jazz piano trio. But Shifting Sands is something exhilaratingly different – starker, simpler, coming straight from the leader’s palpable delight in jamming with energetic kindred spirits after the isolations of the pandemic.
The pianist is Elchin Shirinov, the thoughtful but forceful Azerbaijani musician who played on both Two Roses and Arvoles, and the wild card is Roni Kaspi, the rising 21-year-old Israeli drumming sensation. Cohen’s characteristically songlike themes abound: Intertwined’s churning eight-note piano hook beneath the folksy bass-led melody is badgered by Kaspi’s snappy, cross-grooving interjections; or in the brightly dancing The Window, Shirinov’s upturning elisions on resolving figures sound like the phrasing of a singer. The hymnal Dvash develops on an elegant piano/bass counterpoint (fitfully recalling the legendary Modern Jazz Quartet’s classic dialogues) but irrepressibly disrupted by Kaspi’s asymmetrical patterns, while the unison bowed-bass-and-piano whirl of Joy is a vehicle for her ferociously flat-out solo thrash against the quickly arriving hook. Cohen’s vivacious bass improv and Shirinov’s contrastingly imperturbable lyricism glow through this fine set – and if the new tunes add few surprises to the leader’s signature songbook, the playing is incandescent.
John Fordham - Guardian UK 10/6/2022
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