‘As Is…Live at the Blue Note’ (Raz Daz/Half Note)
Published in Blues and Soul Magazine
By Adam Green
Double-bassist and band-leader Avishai Cohen has a reputation for blistering live performances, presenting a hotter, more visceral jazz. Past records like Continuo and At Home demonstrated his compositional and arrangement abilities, but could not fully capture the live excitement that is a fundamental part of his band’s appeal. As Is…Live at the Blue Note goes some way to correcting the balance. This handsome CD and DVD set presents a band that can perform a tricky, eclectic sound in a live setting and without the luxury of a second take. The DVD, a rare gift in jazz, offers excellent footage of the gig along with an extensive interview with Avishai.
Highlights of this energetic album are the choppy ‘Etude’ (Fiddler on the Roof-meets-Take 5), the rhythmically befuddling ‘Caravan’, the stunning melodic cogency of ‘Feediop’ and the pensive, Hebraic melodies of ‘Remembering’ and ‘Elli’. When Avishai’s bass comes to the fore the results are scintillating, whether it’s his strong, percussive and slap-style bass or more careful, melodic lines. Sam Barsh’s classical and jazz pianism is also a highlight, and the only let down here is Jimmy Greene’s saxophone, which lacks bite.
Overall, though, Avishai Cohen’s achievement is to banish the idea of jazz as laid back, cool or easy, with a band that are never content to groove or sit back. No sooner have you cottoned on to one idea, they whisk you off to another without a moments rest or repetition. Note: Not a record to play when trying to make love.