Avishai Cohen Trio: Shifting Sands

Returning to piano trio seems to have focused the bassist and resulted in more direct, highly effective music-making

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Avishai Cohen is sometimes a hard man to pin down, a superb bassist whose last two releases – Arvoles an augmented piano trio outing in 2019, Two Roses a collaboration with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 2021 – tried perhaps to cover too many bases. But returning to a basic piano trio format on this fine set seems to have better focused his attention, resulting in a simpler, more direct approach.

Cohen is aided by the fine Azerbaijani pianist Elchin Shirinov and the precociously young Israeli drummer Roni Kaspi – only 21 at the time of recording. Each track has a direct appeal, whether it is in the leader’s lengthy, sonorous solo on Dvash, the joyous collective bounce of The Window, or the three-way empathy of Below, where bass and drums track the piano lead note for note.

This a trio that delights in its performances and the challenges they raise, the leader giving each musician the total freedom to state the mood and vibe of each piece as they see fit. The only downside is that Shirinov’s piano tends to grab one’s attention the most, his quietly commanding lines and intriguing solos overshadowing the leader’s sometimes subdued bass work. When he does emerge, as towards the end of the title track, he is mesmeric in his intensity.

All the pieces are by Cohen, other than the old Sephardic folk song Hitragut, and there is not a weak track among them. If we still gave stars, this set would get a full house – that ought to be the case at Ronnie Scott’s, mid-August.

Discography
Intertwined; The Window; Dvash; Joy; Below; Shifting Sands; Chacha Rom; Hitragut; Videogame; Kinderblock (51.09)
Cohen (b); Elchin Shirinov (p); Roni Kaspi (d). Gothenburg, Sweden, August 2021.
Naïve/Believe M7594