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Avishai Cohen: As Is … Live at the Blue Note

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Bassist Avishai Cohen is blossoming into one of the more interesting musicians of his generation. His jazz is modern and inquisitive, searching for new means of self-expression while remaining mindful of the postbop tradition. He fuses ideas from Latin, Middle Eastern, classical and pop music into his compositions and improvisations. His tunes, especially his melodies, are highly structured, yet he and his sidemen shape things on the spot.

As Is is Cohen’s first live record, and it’s a beauty. The core of the group is a phenomenally talented trio that includes pianist Sam Barsh and drummer Mark Guilliana. Plus, we hear quite a bit from two terrific horn players, saxophonist Jimmy Greene and trumpeter Diego Urcola. They start the set with “Smash,” as an ethereal electric keyboard leads to a Latin-tinged piano, soon joined by a driving rock beat. Cohen is a former sideman of Chick Corea, and the old boss’ influence is clearly heard in this tune, which finds Cohen getting funky on the electric bass. “Elli,” an acoustic ballad featuring only the trio, picks up energy as the musicians gently pluck, peck and tap their way through the piece.

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