Those of you who follow the blog (all three of you) will know that we have set ourselves upon completing the discographies of some of the more significant artists we have reviewed, before we move on to newer pastures. The latest in my sights is this, Cohen’s Aurora. For those of you who know enough about music will know that artists of such high caliber won’t ever come up with a steaming turd of an album. There will only be varying degrees of excellence. So let’s get hopes of an unnecessarily acerbic review out the window, shall we? Right.
Since I only have two other Cohen albums to reference this with, let me lay down the differences first. The biggest change is undoubtedly the introduction of vocals into the mix of the music, and it is a great change, by all means. It brings out Cohen‘s vastly eclectic tastes in music to the fore, since most folk music isn’t really instrumental, and only supports vocals.
And the songs which do use vocals thankfully don’t use very studio ready voices. They are quite raw and folksy, which is wonderful, and is a distinct change from the big(ish) band sound of At Home and the straight-up jazz trio that was Gently Disturbed. It is quite excellent, with the blend of Middle-Eastern Hebrew vocal harmonies mixing with jazzy piano to make a truly compelling record. “Morenika”, “El Hatzipor” and “Leolam” are all quite excellent. I’m sure there is a touch of African music as well, as I would have sworn I heard snatches of what could easily have ended up in a Salif Keita or Tinariwen record.
I would have sworn I heard snatches of what could easily have ended up in a Salif Keita or Tinariwen record.
The second big change is the scope of the record. Gently Disturbed was clearly a trio record and At Home a big band jazz record. Avishai Cohen is clearly staking his claim as a composer and not as a bass player. This is evident, because his albums have progressively featured less bass playing and more songs as a whole. Always a good thing, that.
I don’t really get the lyrics, but I’ve always maintained that music that is performed with some other language makes the voice itself like an instrument, which is a good thing. The irony here is that despite understanding the lyrics of “Winter Song” and “It’s been so long”, I like neither. That said, the latter has beautiful electric bass playing. Oh, and “Still” doesn’t cut it for me either.
Later on in the track listing, we have “Shir Preda”, which basically a piano-voice duo until a lovely electric bass solo in the end, and “Alfonsina”, which has a guy singing in Hebrew (presumably) with a BIG voice. Finally, we have my favourite track of the album, “Noches Noches”, which despite the silly sounding name, sounds haunting and beautiful and like an invocation of Christ’s second coming, or something. Fantastic.
I said earlier that Cohen has definitely shifted his focus from being a bass player to being a composer, and draws liberally from his own identity of being from Israel, which is quite at the crossroads of Asiatic, European and African culture. The resulting mix is his best album so far. This sounds very right.
More AVISHAI COHEN reviews HERE.
More JAZZ/JAZZ FUSION reviews HERE.
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