This album swings like the best ‘50s big band of Basie et al, yet there are only 6 pieces. This thing feels so tight, so enmeshed as the instruments bob and weave, and play off, around, with each other it really is a great bop kind of beauty you don’t hear enough of today.
As the title suggest, it is a family band but in the best sense of the old saw “bigger than the sum of the parts” 3Cohens is more than a sum of their parts. The Israel born Cohen siblings individually are amongst the cream on their instruments while playing all over the world in other bands.
Avishai Cohen is one of the great trumpeters on the NY Jazz scene, able to play bebop, swing and ballads with equal expertise and reach those way-out sounds that only a trumpet can. Anat is without a doubt one of the premiere clarinet players in jazz, in any genre. And Yuval Cohen plays a sweet, full, relaxed tenor sax that is the envy of many a player.
Filling out the band is a rhythm section that, though not named Cohen , feel like cousins that grew up with them musically. The great pianist and composer, Aaron Goldberg is the go to guy for Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Betty Carter, Nicholas Payton, Al Foster, Stefon Harris, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Madeleine Peyroux and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra among others. Yeah, he knows a thing or two about getting around the piano without GPS.
On bass is New Zealander & Berklee grad Matt Penman. Penman is “the keeper of the groove” no matter where he plays and with the Cohen’s it is a powerful groove he brings. Penman is a member of SFJazz Collective, an 8-piece composer’s collective devoted to presenting the original works of its members as well as arrangements of the jazz greats' oeuvre.He , also plays with Redman, and with Aaron Parks and Eric Harland in a trio called James Farm. The band released their debut album in spring 2011 on Nonesuch Records.
And keeping the beat (and so much more) is Gregory Hutchinson whose resume looks like a who’s who of music heaven. He has played with Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Ray Brown ad infinitum. Hutch is also a drum instructor with an instruction video due out soon.
And, like a mindful uncle, on vocals on two superb tracks we have very special guest Jon Hendricks. Now the tunes, ahh the tunes.
Just a few of the highlights:
“Shufla Deshufla”, says Avishai Cohen “Shufra Deshufra in Aramaic (ancient language of the middle east) means “the best of the best”. Since the tune is in shuffle mode, I used the name as a paraphrase. I wanted to write a bouncy, “feel-good” tune, realizing there’s not too many modern shuffle tunes out there. Keeping it old school, with a chorus each to blow, rather than an extended blowing form. This is the way we play it live as well.” This one sets the scene, and opens this great album. I love the old school, bop feel to it and it reminds me of some of the great “Jazz Messengers” albums from the ‘50s.
There is not a weak tune on the album, they are all standouts from “The Mooch” to “Rhapsody In Blake” what you have here is a virtuosity and creativity rarely found in “family bands” but it’s joyfully in abundance here.
“Blues for Dandi’s Orange Bull Chasing an Orange Sack”, is one of my personal favorites that opens with some fine piano work by Goldberg before picking up the pace to turn into a showcase tune.Says, Yuval Cohen: A tune I wrote based on a drawing by my daughter. She drew 2 orange objects, which we ended up naming a bull chasing a sack. The tune has some grain of the Mingus-Richmond tradition, also the title, as well as the orange theme.” The ‘licorice stick’ of Anat will make you realize the claims above were not idle chatter.
With The Soul of The Greatest of Them All is another personal favorite and not just because the bass opens it up in a quite way and lays out that groove. Avishai Cohen says: “I was hanging out in south of France at my friend (pianist) Yonathan Avishai’s place. I ended up sitting on the piano and for couple of days couldn’t let go of that original vamp of this tune. Right away it felt very “Mingusy” so when I added a melody to it instead of avoiding ‘copying’ from Mingus I decided to make it a tribute tune. Hence the middle section that goes to a ballad feel and grows back to the swing feel, and the harmony that leads back to the vamp at the end, very typical for Mingus. He was always one of my favorite bass players and as a composer he also has a big influence on me. In the past few years I’ve been playing with the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Orchestra and recently also with the Mingus Dynasty, so my exposure to his music grew even more.”
I can’t get away without mentioning one of the two vocals covered here. The great Vocalize” scat singing of Jon Hendricks on “Roll ‘em Pete” Hendricks has covered this tune numerous times, from his days with Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, to countless other renditions but perhaps this will top them all. he also covers “On The Sunny Side OF The Street”.
Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved