Most of trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s recorded output has subsumed his trumpet voice within the broader ensemble purposes of composition, multicultural interface and concept albums. Triveni II, his sixth release as a leader, lets him cut loose and blow. The stark trio format (Omer Avital on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums) puts Cohen alone out front.
Other than reporting that Triveni II is one clamorous, blistering, freely spattering, soaring trumpet recital, it is not simple to characterize, because it is diverse. From the opening track, Cohen’s “Safety Land,” the energy is mostly high voltage, Waits dropping cluster bombs, Avital plunging, Cohen blasting. But there is also “Nov. 30th,” bare lyricism on muted trumpet, dedicated to Cohen’s mother. Mingus’ “Portrait,” nominally a ballad, is distorted with shaken notes and reshaped by lines that shoot free. Familiar forms like “Woody ’N You” are celebrated in order to be abandoned. Throughout, Cohen plays with passionate urgency, smearing notes or pounding them to gravel. But his postmodernism includes historical allusion. “Willow Weep for Me” could be Cootie Williams filtered through the mind of Wadada Leo Smith.
With Cohen, what initially sounds like wild abandon turns out to be conscious control. His effusions always cohere. He is even concise. On each of two hollering Ornette Coleman anthems, “Music News” and “Follow the Sound,” he crystallizes the cryptic Coleman aesthetic in just over two minutes. And the brilliant brassiness of Cohen’s trumpet sound is beautifully captured on this recording.