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June 2005

Avishai Cohen
At Home
Razdaz/Sunnyside

Since his solo debut seven years ago, bassist Avishai Cohen has been honing a global strain of modern jazz that places primacy on rhythm. The second release on his Razdaz label is no exception, and furthers Cohen's stature as a resourceful bandleader with a broad command of groove.

At Home introduces a rhythm section that Cohen has helmed for the past few years; their seamless exchange provides the album's beating heart. Pianist/organist Sam Barsh confidently juggles a host of duties, tossing off solos with aplomb that mirrors Cohen's own. Drummer Mark Guiliana supplies a battery of grooves, ranging from the breakbeat of "Renouf's Last Tooth" to the backbeat of "Saba."

If this sounds less like a jazz date than a world-funk-fusion outing, that's partly true. But the tension between composition and improvisation animates most of the album's 11 tracks-especially those that feature trumpeter Diego Urcola, saxophonist Yosvany Terry, flutist Anne Drummond and percussionists Jeff Ballard and Tomer Tzur. The full ensemble's pining on "Madrid" sets up a judicious tag-team between Drummond and Terry. "Gershon Beat" augments Cohen's percussive ostinato with an evocative horn overlay.

What's still missing from Cohen's compositional arsenal is an ease with melody. When he strays from his faithful vamps, he falters. So "Remembering" comes across as cloying, and the promisingly ruminative "No Words" goes nowhere. There are lyrical flourishes scattered about the album, but it's clear that polyrhythmic pulse and textural layering are where Cohen is, to use his phrase, most at home.

Originally published in June 2005
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