Lloyd Sachs reviews the new collaboration by the Israeli-born siblings
It’s a lot easier to discuss the three-part harmonies of the Beach Boys or Bee Gees than the shared sibling sound of 3 Cohens. But there’s no mistaking the genetic sharing on Family, the latest collective effort by tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Anat, trumpeter Avishai and soprano saxophonist Yuval. On an album that emphasizes bold, coloristic group dynamics over soloing, the Cohens project a sound that is warm but edgy, smooth but ruffled and shot through with what we can call Israeli soul.
Those qualities are especially striking on two originals inspired by Charles Mingus. Yuval’s “Blues for Dandi’s Orange Bull Chasing an Orange Sack” builds from a pensive piano trio (pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Greg Hutchinson, all first-rate) to roiling ensembles and gracefully stacked harmonies anchored by Anat’s burly tenor. Avishai, his Mingus Big Band membership in hand, composed “With the Soul of the Greatest of Them All,” which emulates the great composer’s fondness for striking contrasts with its elegant melody and thrusting accents. The group also applies robust Mingus-ian changes to that most pungent of Ellington masterpieces, “The Mooch,” and Anat’s “Shufla De Shufla,” a bouncy bop vehicle that has the swank feel of a Jazz Messengers classic adapted by Henry Mancini.
Family becomes less rewarding the further the Cohens stroll back into the jazz past—into the Satchmo era on “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and Kansas City jazz with “Roll ’Em Pete.” The latter two songs feature the still-buoyant, now-90-year-old vocalese legend Jon Hendricks. It’s a great gesture by the Cohens, but he’s a bit out of place here, requiring the band to negotiate stylistically when they should be closing the deal.