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Shades of Avishai

September 23, 2010
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Big careers from Smalls packages?

Tel Aviv's Avishai Cohen's history tells such a story; new to New York in 1997, but already an established artist in Israel, he arrived at Smalls legendary jazz club as a man with a horn and a talent with a tale.

It takes a village? It took gigs at the pre-eminent Greenwich Village landmark to trumpet the arrival of a new name in America, who blew audiences away with a sound that stunned and sweet-keyed its way into their souls.

He is about to release that energy right here -- in connection with the Sept. 28 release of his new CD, "Introducing Triveni," debuting his new trio -- with a performance at World Café Live (www.worldcafelive.com) on Monday night, Sept. 27.

A world-class act with a world-stamped passport -- "In the last two months, we've played Italy, Israel, Mexico, Japan, New York and ... what's tomorrow?

Right, we're leaving tonight for Brazil" -- Cohen's schedule roams the map much like the improv nature of the new CD ranges up and down the scales.

Back up on that backbeat: "People are surprised that I can do improv, because they're heard my other albums," which have used structured charts and ornate orchestrations -- "but that's where I started out," regales Cohen.

And where he debuts now: The trumpeter/composer's three-man Triveni of a thousand sounds comes together much like the three rivers represented by the group's name -- the Ganga, the Yumana and the Saraswati -- do as well, perfect for a CD stream of consciousness.

Rivers run deep: His other works have often concerned themselves with water ... and wonder. "Introducing Triveni" -- which presages the second CD out next year -- comes after "After the Big Rain," which flooded airwaves, as did the sequel ("It's a trilogy; the third is a work in progress") with its concern for nature and man's role in the roll of ages as the earth is flooded.

Avishai's Ark? No, but it represents the arc of concern he has for the environment.

In the environment he's in now, Cohen is waging a war against waste: "The focus in Israel, all people talk about, is conserving water. Growing up, I always would hear, 'Save water!'

"I never would take a bath," says Cohen, "only real quick showers. And to be here, in New York, and see the waste, sprinklers in the park when there's no people around -- I was so sure it was a mistake" that he called the city's conservation department to report it.

"Please come and shut it off, I told them."

But, no, he discovered, it was no mistake, and there was no need or concern to shut it off.

Spigot-savvy? Indeed, Cohen's music taps, if not an eco-echo, into "my concern for nature and humanity."

He is as active, too, as humanly possible on the band front. Besides Triveni, and being a member of the SF Jazz Collective, Cohen also commits tours and time to his siblings-saturated "3 Cohens."

One sound one hears in his work is Mideast-inspired, but then it's all part of the mix.

There's the mix -- and then there's the mix-up. Shades of Avishai -- but which one? There is another prominent Israeli jazz giant, also named Avishai Cohen, whose bass work is based in New York -- as is his trio. "We know each other," says this Cohen, but adds, knowingly, "we're rarely in the same place, the same time."

Is Cohen the trumpeter on the same planet as his idol, Miles Davis? It doesn't take brass breath to consider it. Miles to go: One critic paid tribute to the trumpet master, comparing him to the late legendary jazz icon who often played turning his back on audiences.

Audiences here will now get to see this Jewish jazzman front and center. As far as influences ... "I travel so much, I'm more likely to be influenced by the sounds of [jet] engines."

The air in his trumpet, the wind beneath his wings? "In fact," he kibitzes, tongue firmly in chic, "I may call my next album 'White Noise.' "

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