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AVISHAI COHEN

AVISHAI COHEN

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    Biography written by Julie Diebolt
    An insight in to Avishai's whole musical career “Music speaks better than words”. This phrase taken from Avishai Cohen’s liner notes in At Home may well apply to his music: there is so much to say about the music and life of this bassist, composer and singer.
    Avishai Cohen was born in Israel on April 20th, 1970. He grew up to a multicultural family whose roots were to be found in Spain, Greece and Poland among others. At home, music was always in the air, with his mother Ora – an artistic person – listening to both classical and traditional music.
    Avishai’s musical journey began at the piano, when he was nine. Moving to St. Louis, Missouri with his family at the age of fourteen, he went on studying the piano there and started playing the bass.
    The electric bass put a spell on him when his teacher introduced him to the music of luminary bassist Jaco Pastorius. Back in Israel, Avishai joined the Music and Arts Academy in Jerusalem to further
    explore the bass universe. In 1992, having served for two years in the army band, he decided to take the big step and moved to New York, paving the way for many other musicians coming from all
    around the world to make their name at the heart of the jazz scene. Avishai was then 22 years old.
    Avishai arrived in wintry New York in January 1992. Moving to the Big Apple was quite a challenging decision, emotionally as well as professionally, and his insatiable thirst for music was put to the test.
    The young Israeli had tough beginnings in the big city, playing on the streets and working in construction to get by. These small steps precisely gave his music a unique sense of authenticity.
    Tenacity and patience nevertheless bore fruit, and Avishai could eventually cut his teeth on the city’s jazz scene. He studied at the New School in New York City with such artists as Brad Mehldau and was soon to be heard in pianist Danilo Perez’ trio, reflecting the essential role Latin music played in
    Avishai’s first years in New York.
    "Let us make music together" ‐ Chick Corea
    Chick Corea’s phone call in 1997 changed it all. Avishai had passed one of Chick Corea’s friends a demo tape, without particular hope of being noticed. Chick listened to it in his car and called him
    back a few weeks later, blown away by his freshness. A member of the Chick Corea New Trio and a co‐founder of Corea’s ensemble Origin, Avishai became an integral part of Chick’s bands and got the
    opportunity to fine‐tune his skills as a bassist. Performing with Chick Corea played an important part in shaping his musicianship, which led Avishai to consider his Master as a teacher, fellow musician, colleague and friend at the same time. Soon becoming a very sought‐after bassist, he accompanied
    Bobby McFerrin and collaborated with Claudia Acuna, Alicia Keys among others. Concert performances include appearances with the Boston Pops Symphony as well as with the London and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras. Not only did Chick Corea offer his protégé the opportunity to fully develop his skills on stage, but he
    enabled him to record his own music as well. Avishai’s first four albums, released under Chick Corea’s label Stretch Concord Records, already feature the essence of his music: own compositions, Mediterranean and Latin influences, singing, horns create a sound that is truly unique. Unity,
    Avishai’s fourth album as a leader and first at the piano, deserves a special place. The album was recorded with the International Vamp Band, a group of fellow musicians coming from different parts of the world (Mexico, Argentina, Cuba and Israel). The idea behind this cutting‐edge project was to let different cultures interact and converse using the medium of music, eventually delivering a
    message of peace and harmony.
    Creating his own path The growing range of projects he was involved in led Avishai to create his own label, Razdaz Recordz, with his manager in 2002, thus enabling him to follow his own path as well as record talented young musicians he believes in.
    Lyla (2003), Avishai’s debut record on Razdaz, reflects his multifaceted artistic personality, ranging from Latin rhythms to electronics, via traditional jazz. At Home (2004) can be regarded as a metaphor defining Avishai’s music, if indeed it can be put into words: music makes one feel at home everywhere. The core of this album is the trio, with a fine ensemble adding new colours to
    compositions. Most followers will also remember At Home as featuring the composition “Remembering”, an evocative ballad played in trio and probably the most demanded encore during Avishai’s concerts. The cosmopolitan Continuo (2006) and the live recording As Is (2007) marked his return to New York
    for a series of concerts at legendary jazz club Blue Note. With Gently Disturbed, Avishai achieves a
    masterstroke, hitting the right balance between a powerful trio formula and delicate compositions.
    The well‐acclaimed album established the trio formed by talented young Israeli Shai Maestro (piano) and US drummer Mark Guiliana.
    The energy Avishai Cohen put into bringing the upright bass under the spotlight and pushing the boundaries of jazz paid off and earned him international recognition. DownBeat magazine called Avishai a “jazz visionary of global proportions” while Bass Player declared him as one of the 100 most
    influential bass players of the twentieth century. Avishai’s impressive quest in music, though being a quest for excellence, is the result of many years of dedication and hard work which turned him into a well‐rounded musician.
    Avishai Cohen is regularly invited to perform in the most renowned venues and festivals worldwide, including Stockholm, North Sea and Red Sea Jazz Festivals, Jazz in Marciac, Jazz à Juan among many
    others. France has played a particular role in shaping Avishai’s career, with the special support from TSF Jazz radio, ARTE and Mezzo TV channels.
    Concerts have always been the centerpiece of Avishai’s musical world. There is a tight connection and mutual exchange between the concerts played on the road and recordings. Avishai currently is
    the Artistic Director of the Red Sea Jazz Festival, Israel’s most important international jazz festival that is held every summer in the beautiful setting of Eilat. A source of inspiration for many, Avishai has been nominated as patron of Jazz à l’Etage 2011 festival in Rennes, France, and will bear the colours of the festival around the globe.
    Touring around the world has enabled Avishai to develop a strong network of followers, striking a
    chord with the audience wherever he has played. He obviously thrives on performing live, feeding off
    his fellow musicians on stage and sharing his emotion with the audience. The stage is undoubtedly a
    place where Avishai feels at home, so much so that attending one of his live performances is
    probably the best way to get acquainted with his musical universe. Indeed, one undeniable quality of
    Avishai Cohen’s music is its amazing and magical ability to gather people from different horizons as
    well as attract listeners who don’t usually connect with jazz.
    A gesture towards tradition
    Another gift is Avishai’s capacity to flow between a wide range of musical genres, absorbing the
    elements of each, without getting trapped in any specific category. “I feel very blessed in the way
    that I can consider myself an open person who absorbs anything that has a spiritual or just a real
    meaning. It could be anything, from anywhere, as long as there is real substance to it”. Building
    bridges across cultures comes as second nature to Avishai, just as the growing scene in his home
    country of Israel, which is at the crossroads of many influences.
    Like the many traditions nurturing his inspiration, Avishai’s music seems to have been proven
    through time. Although he has been open to various musical influences, he has more recently
    focused on things which really are substantial to him – a process that led him to present the Ladino
    language (the language spoken by Sephardic Jews) and culture to the world. “I find so much honesty,
    truth and innocence in those songs that I want to keep this language and tradition and make people
    aware of it” says Cohen.
    Getting back to his roots
    Things come full circle in 2005, when after twelve fruitful years in New York, Avishai decided to get
    back to his roots and moved back to Israel – a choice that is apparent in his latest musical
    development. Home is an essential element of Avishai’s music, as reflected in Shalom, a traditional
    prayer and a joyful last song on stage. Avishai enjoys a well‐deserved success in his home country as
    well, playing at the Opera House in Tel Aviv and releasing Sensitive Hours, an album in Hebrew.
    Every album reveals another slice of his life. With Aurora, Avishai Cohen’s career is at a crossroads as
    it marks the beginning of a fruitful partnership with prestigious jazz label Blue Note. Working with
    EMI’s French team also represented the consecration of his special connection with the French
    audience.
    In Aurora, Avishai surrounded himself with new, gifted young musicians from Israel: Shai Maestro
    plays the piano, Amos Hoffman the oud and Itamar Doari percussions, while vocals are by Karen
    Malka. With this musical family and a unique project that blends jazz, classical music and Sephardic
    traditions, Avishai found the perfect environment to fully present himself as a singer, next to his
    talent of composer and bass player. He expresses himself in all the languages he feels close to
    (Hebrew, English, Spanish and Ladino), and opening up to singing enabled him to reach a higher level
    of communication as well as attract listeners way beyond the borders of jazz.
    Flowing on Seven Seas
    Seven Seas (February 2011), his second opus with Blue Note and his most recent, is the natural
    continuation of Aurora. Aurora’s close‐knit musicians, complemented by a horn section, take us on a
    mysterious yet peaceful journey, flowing from one classical‐oriented tune to another – as if the
    whole record were just one piece. Avishai found in the Swedish studio Nilento and in its sound
    engineer Lars Nilsson the perfect place and a tailor‐made team to record songs he has been playing
    on stage for a while. Having already recorded Continuo and Gently Disturbed, Lars Nilsson has
    become part of Avishai’s artistic family. During the fall of 2010, the intriguing atmosphere defining
    Seven Seas was captured and recorded. His twelfth release encompasses all elements defining the
    musician’s odyssey and is the epitome of his whole career. One may be tempted to define Seven Seas
    as the album of maturity, although Avishai’s music has lost none of its freshness.
    Ahead of time
    The future undeniably holds a lot more promising projects in store for Avishai Cohen. In fact,
    Avishai’s musical odyssey is a continuum. Sony ATV Music Publishing signed Avishai in 2010, which
    will ensure even greater creative success going forward. In the upcoming years, he is expected to go
    more in‐depth on composition and write music for strings and orchestras. Indeed, the picture
    wouldn’t be complete without mentioning his skills as a composer, a fundamental part of his
    musicianship reflecting the various musical styles he has been exposed to. However, that is not all: he
    may be involved in a more intimate and personal project, an album dedicated to the Ladino
    repertoire, interpreted and produced by a Spanish team, keeping up with his dedication to
    preserving time‐proven traditions.
    An irresistible ambassador of music without boundaries, Avishai Cohen found a language of his own
    through music, and yet he can speak to everyone. It won’t take you long to get onboard!


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