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Yonathan Avishai: Joys and Solitudes (ECM)

A review of the Israeli-French pianist's ECM debut

Yonathan Avishai
The cover of Joys and Solitudes by Yonathan Avishai

Israeli-French pianist Yonathan Avishai’s ECM debut begins with five seconds of silence. It’s exhilarating on first listen, as a whole universe of notes, phrases, melodies, and rhythms hang in the air, unsure of whether to fall into an orderly line or scatter across the aural canvas like a Jackson Pollock original. Avishai knows the allure of such silence. As a sideman for the ambient, evocative Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen, he helps craft cavernous soundscapes that haunt a listener.

Only one track on Joys and Solitudes reflects the general Cohen mood of unsettled cadence paired with streaming lyricism: the 12-minute “When Things Fall Apart.” It’s Avishai and his conspirators, bassist Yoni Zelnik and drummer Donald Kontomanou, at their most abstract on their most cohesive record as a trio—their third, following releases in 2015 and 2016 on the French label Jazz & People. But that ethos of abstraction echoes throughout as the group seeks to explore textural, rather than melodic, development.

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