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Avishai Cohen/Yonathan Avishai: Playing the Room (ECM)

A review of the duo album from the trumpeter and pianist

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Avishai Cohen & Yonathan Avishai, Playing the Room
The cover of Playing the Room by Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai

In the 2019 DownBeat Critics Poll, Avishai Cohen did not make the top 20 on his instrument. Yet very few living trumpet players have made as many excellent records as Cohen.

Playing the Room strips a Cohen ensemble to the minimum, a duo, which provides maximum focus on his specific creative resources. They begin with his trumpet sound. It is brilliantly brassy yet human as breath, and uncommonly capable of nuanced emotional expression. The stark duo format also highlights a special musical bond. Cohen has been playing with pianist Yonathan Avishai since they were teenagers in Tel Aviv. In the open spaces between Cohen’s striking lines, Avishai adds spare, graceful asides that complete Cohen’s thoughts. It’s postmodern chamber music.

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Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.