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Avishai Cohen: Almah

10 February 2014

Over the last two decades Avishai Cohen has earned his reputation as one of the world's greatest bassists. It is however as a composer that his musical statement has grown. On his fourteenth album as leader, he Israeli has gone back to the roots of his first musical experience: classical writing and harmony. Almah, named after his daughter, is the culmination of this musical journey.

At the centre of Almah is a string quartet with a difference; Cohen has replaced one of the violins with a viola to benefit from its darker timbre and create more depth. An oboe/cor anglais is added to the ensemble and joins Cohen's core trio of double bass, piano (Nitai Hershkovits) and drums (Ofri Nehemya).

Featuring the powerful Overture 'Noam’ Op 1, an original opener dedicated to the memory a young cousin who died in a accident while serving in the Israeli army, the album brings together standards from various traditions (‘On a Black Horse’, a melody borrowed from the repertoire of the Red Army, Thad Jones’ ‘A Child is Born’ and ‘Kefel’, an old Israeli folk song), new compositions such as ‘Shlosre’ and a new look at some past recordings (‘Hayo Hayta’ from Cohen’s 2011 album Seven Seas becomes a chamber music suite). Almah finishes with ‘Kumi Venetse Hasadeh’, a moving romance by Israeli composer Ram Da Oz in which Avishai's warm vocals subtly create a mood that complements the luscious instrumentation.

"Avishai Cohen must be one of the most accomplished virtuosi of the double bass in any form of music. In his case, the form is entirely his own, an amalgam of classical chamber music, popular music of the Middle East, particularly his native Israel, and jazz. The jazz part comes out strongest in his own phenomenal solo playing, along with that of pianist Nitai Hershkovits and oboist Yoram Lachish. The resulting mixture is so rich and artfully combined that the strands would be impossible to disentangle, even if you tried. It's a unique and captivating blend.The Observer

"A gorgeous album that should delight many tastes."  The Birmingham Post

"This lyrical jazz/classical crossover set from the Israeli composer, bassist and singer glows with seductive songs, from its luxuriously harmonised classical overture, via Israeli and Sephardic folk materials to his quietly ecstatic folk-vocal finale. Almah also features pianist Nitai Hershkovits, drummer Ofri Nehemya, and the unique oboe and cor anglais improviser Yoram Lachish, alongside violin, violas and cello. Cohen's Song for My Brother unfolds in a rolling trance, pivoting on an emphatic bass break, On a Black Horse veers between wistful baroque symmetry and implacable string-group funk, and Thad Jones' A Child Is Born gains new resonances from the contrast between Lachish's plaintive reeds and Cohen's bass. There are gliding oboe lullabies, pounding Arab dances, and the hip-hoppish Shlosre is a fiendish rhythmic workout for the jazz trio at the core of this band. It's genre-blending music from a conventional melodist's angle, but made with a real sensitivity to its ingredients."  The Guardian ****

"A jazz record from one of the more thoughtful bandleaders on the current scene." The Irish Times****

"Much more than just another crossover album, this is music of sincerity, depth and beauty."  Hi-Fi News