Avishai Cohen – Into The Silence (2016)

Recently ECM Records founder and head honcho Manfred Eicher has been corralling some of the most talented jazz musicians working in NYC into his record label: the additions of Tim Berne, Vijay Iyer, Craig Taborn and Ches Smith have given this traditionally Euro-centered label a tilt toward the west side of the pond a little more than before. But with Eicher’s spotless work behind the boards, the personality of the ECM brand is often just as strong as the personalities of the musicians themselves.

Now, trumpeter Avishai Cohen becomes the latest from the New York gang to record as a leader for this fabled label, and for Cohen’s ECM debut Into The Silence (February 12, 2016), the music bears the strong mark of Eicher’s production touch. For this particular case, it’s exactly what Cohen needed.

Like another certain artist releasing a record this month, Cohen composed his latest collection of songs as he was coping with the recent loss of his father. The man responsible for some outward, highly expressive records — especially when he leads his Triveni trio — composed inward-looking and reflective music, and Eicher is just the person to sonically shape these songs in that way.

Cohen also realized the need to pull together the right personnel who will give him the just-right vibe. That meant, obviously, a different group than Triveni, although drummer Nasheet Waits was retained. On bass, longtime Wynton Marsalis Quartet anchor Eric Revis was tabbed and Cohen’s childhood friend Yonathan Avishai contributes his piano. Lastly, Cohen asked tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry to share lead lines with him for some of the performances.

Moody — like Miles — pervades these recordings, beginning with “Life And Death.” Reflective and introspective, the muted horn could symbolize the muted aftermath of death, when a voice is silenced. Avishai’s sensitive piano solo distributes notes carefully, perfectly conveying fragility. And just as the song appears to have ended, Revis’ revolving bass figure emerges from silence, providing an opportunity for Cohen to make a few more parting remarks.

That’s followed by two longer pieces, unbound to time in order to explore the complex emotions being conveyed. That’s why the intro section of “Dream Like A Child” lasts for seven minutes, during which time Waits can be heard doing exemplary work on cymbals and soft tom rolls that nearly steals all the focus away from Avishai’s classically-minded outflowing of chords. Cohen’s and McHenry’s entry signal the thematic part of the tune, as Waits is limbers up even further. Cohen more than makes up for a delayed entrance by sublime trumpet playing, minding tone as much as technique, while McHenry assists in a harmonizing role.

“Into The Silence” shows off Waits’ ingenuity seductively. He generates a current of restlessness, either providing small cues that alters the direction of the song or giving shape to that new direction. McHenry echoes Cohen’s searching sentiment as the wandering melody portrays unresolved feelings.

The waltzing bass and piano of “Quiescence” forms a gently rolling figure and Cohen makes every note hang and resonate. His pure tone beautifully adorns the melody of “Behind The Broken Glass” and McHenry offers a soul-laden counterpoint.

The main draw of Avishai Cohen’s artistry throughout his varied output is his restlessness. “Every day, we are someone else,” he contends. “If you try to create who you were yesterday, your search is over.” The man who was making sense of a death in the family when he made Into The Silence is different from the man who made Dark Nights. Not better or worse, but right for the moment. Which is, after all, what matters the most.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron