Arvoles—it means “trees” in the ancient Ladino language—is something of a reining in after the expansive 1970, Cohen’s previous release. That one, released in 2017, commemorated the year of the bassist’s birth with a vocal-centric program that veered from Latin to pop to a Beatles cover. This time, Cohen largely scales back to the standard instrumental piano trio, with Elchin Shirinov handling that instrument and Noam David the drums. Half of its 10 tracks also feature trombonist Björn Samuelsson and flutist Anders Hagberg, but Arvoles is a steady ride; it never feels as if it’s trying to be too many things at once.
A solo pizzicato line from Cohen ushers in “Simonero,” written—as is everything here except the traditional title track—by Cohen. Shirinov establishes the Latinesque rhythm and the others, including the two horns, are happy to fall into place quickly, the trombone and flute pushing the melody before long. That’s not an atypical approach on the five tracks featuring the additional musicians: “New York 90’s” toys with the idea of funk but doesn’t fool itself into thinking it’s something it’s not, while on the ballad “Childhood (for Carmel),” the players are much subtler, playing in tandem until there’s a mid-song opening for Cohen to exert himself. Even then, he dominates only briefly, preferring to fall back and allow the others to move to the front.
The trio tracks naturally have a more austere feel, but the three musicians fill the open space judiciously and tastefully. The traditional title track is elegant in its asceticism, David lightly brushing while the pianist and bassist find their way together and apart. And “Nostalgia,” despite a title suggesting retro, never goes there, although its modernity is also more implied than overt. “Gesture #1” (which comes later than the quintet track “Gesture #2”) is the densest piece on the record, Shirinov only briefly escaping from a metronomic, hypnotic rhythm to let everyone know he’s been driving the tune all along.
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