Avishai Cohen: Naked Truth

After a guitar detour in 2020 the trumpeter returns to his main instrument, using eight notes to inspire a quartet album of improvised music


Trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s fifth album for ECM sees him return to his familiar acoustic territory after his self-indulgent 2020 guitar album Big ViciousNaked Truth takes the form of an eight-part extemporaneous suite, improvised in the moment in the recording studio in southern France.

The album arose, as Cohen explains, out of a “two-year meditation”. He says: “I had been sitting with the main motif of Naked Truth since the start of Covid. The eight-note motif you hear at the start of Part II was the beginning of the whole process . . . the album revolved around those eight notes and all the possibilities within them.”

In his earlier albums, Cohen concentrated on the compositions. “But”, he says, “with this one, the melodies somehow didn’t want to be written down before the recording. And at the same time, the story is definitely not about the solos.” So, for much of its length, Cohen’s raw and vulnerable trumpet painstakingly leads the way, closely shadowed by his three, long-time comrades, who share an intuitive understanding of what is required, always alert to the music’s subtly changing emphases.

The music is deliberately pared back, the drums trimmed of percussive details, the piano often repeating a simple riff, the bass echoing the piano. As for Cohen, he largely sticks to muted trumpet, the move to an open horn in Part III suddenly throwing a new light on proceedings.

It is all very subtle, and often gentle, yet all the more powerful for that, the accelerating circling of the instruments in Part IV in particular making a great impact. At the album’s conclusion, Cohen recites Departure, a Hebrew poem by Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky (1914–84), whose themes of renunciation, acceptance and letting go seem well attuned to the mood of the music.

This is an extraordinarily good album, one that Cohen has always had within him to create.

Naked Truth Parts 1–8; Departure (35.07)
Cohen (t, v); Yonathan Avishai (p); Barak Mori (b); Ziv Ravitz (d). Pernes-les-Fontaines, France, September 2021.
ECM 2737