When Avishai Cohen (bass), Mark Guiliana (drums) and Amos Hoffman (oud) answer pianist Sam Barsh’s flowing piano lick with a resounding crash in “Nu Nu,” the whole group exerts its collective authority: This is a unit with rock-solid cohesion that knows how to kick off an album. The piano melody gets a tad repetitive before the piece ends, but the force of the music—coupled with an East-meets-jazz approach wherein an oud has never sounded so blue—makes up for it.
Cohen asked his longtime friend Hoffman to join the trio for several of Continuo’s tunes, to fully develop the music’s blend of quasi-classical, composed qualities and solo sections. The tonal combination works, especially on “Continuo” where Cohen switches to electric six-string and doubles the melody with Hoffman.
In between, the results don’t always measure up.
Eventually, repetition seems to get the better of the bassist. After a while, it seems like he prefers to write in riffs rather than develop full-blown melodies. Barsh’s contributions frequently sound too much like arpeggios without a trace of syncopation in sight. When Guiliana starts sprinkling all manner of percussive explosions over the otherwise tranquil “Emotional Storm,” the group hints at greater possibilities that can come if they tweak their approach just a little.