Avishai Cohen (Hebrew: אבישי כהן; born April 20, 1970) is an Israeli jazz double bassist, composer, singer, and arranger.
Avishai was born in Kabri, Israel. He grew up in a musical family at Motza and Beit Zayit near Jerusalem until the age of six, when his family moved to Shoeva, western Israel. He began playing the piano at 9 years old, but changed to the bass guitar at the age of 14, inspired by bassist Jaco Pastorius. Later, after playing in an Army band for two years, he began studying upright bass with Michael Klinghoffer. Two years later he moved to New York City, and got in contact with other jazz players. At the beginning of his stay there he had to struggle, working in jobs like construction. According to him his first year there was the most difficult year of his life, having to play bass in the streets, subways and parks. He studied music at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and after playing Latin jazz in a few bands in his student years, Cohen was approached by pianist Danilo Pérez to join his trio.
After a long period of performing in small clubs, Cohen got a phone call from the jazz pianist Chick Corea and was given a record contract. In 1996, he became a founding member of Corea’s sextet Origin, and his first four albums as a leader were subsequently released under Corea’s Stretch label. Cohen performed in Corea’s bands until as late as 2003, when he left the Chick Corea New Trio and started his own record label; he currently performs with his own group, the Avishai Cohen Trio (with fellow Israelis Daniel Dor on drums and Nitai Hershkovits on piano). His later albums have been released by this formation with extended lineup including wind instruments.
Aside from Corea, Cohen has accompanied, recorded or performed with several noted jazz figures such as Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Nnenna Freelon and Paquito D’Rivera. Other collaborators include Claudia Acuña (Wind from the South, 2000), Alicia Keys (studio recording) and the London and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras (concert performances). Cohen has been cited as “undoubtedly the most successful” of Israel’s jazz exports by The Jerusalem Post a “jazz visionary of global proportions” by Down Beat, one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player magazine, and “a great composer” and “a genius musician” by Chick Corea himself.
In 2002, Cohen founded his record label, Razdaz Recordz, and on September 9 of 2003, released his label’s debut album, Lyla. “I’ve always been interested in several genres of music, including jazz, rock, pop, Latin and funk,” says Cohen. “I’m always packed with ideas. I decided to start my own label because I’m involved in so many different projects.” (Avishai Cohen, 2003) As of 2012, the label had produced 12 albums, five of which were Cohen’s. Other artists associated with the label include pianist Sam Barsh, saxophonist Jimmy Green, flutist Ilan Salem, and guitarist Amos Hoffman. Also produced by Razdaz are the works of some of Cohen’s associates such as drummer Mark Guiliana, who performed with Cohen on two of his albums. Razdaz produced an album for Guiliana’a band HEERNT in 2006. Razdaz also produced Lady of The Forest, the first album of the singer Karen Malka, in 2010. Karen had been touring with Cohen for three years prior. The most recent production of the label is Ilan Salem’s album Wild, which is Ilan’s third album, though it is his first under Razdaz.
Lyla is the first album released by Cohen’s Razdaz Recordz. The album was lauded for its genre breaking diversity. Cohen reflects on his work, “Lyla reflects much of who I am as an artist. The International Vamp Band has been touring for two years and I wanted to document that. I also started a rock band Gadu with Israeli drummer named Mike Starr dubbed by ‘Drummer magazine’ as one of the most aggressive drummers in Jazz and some young musicians who are graduates of William Paterson College. It’s creating a buzz in New York, I have been exploring a lot of new territory. I’ve also been working on pop tunes with a female vocalist named Lola. And, of course, to show the whole picture on the CD, I wanted to acknowledge my relationship to Chick. I’ve been associated with him for six years and have played hundreds of shows in his bands, so we’re very connected.”
Cohen’s signature sound is a blend of Middle Eastern, eastern European, and African-American musical idioms. The New York Times describes his 2006 album Continuo as conjoining “heavy Middle Eastern groove with a delicate, almost New Age lyricism”. Cohen often sings in Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino), to which he has a connection through his mother. For example, “Morenika”, from his album Aurora, is a very famous Ladino song he grew up hearing his mother singing around the house (by wikipedia)
And here´s a very rare album by Avishai Cohen; recorded and produced for the record market in the Ukraine only:
This Kyiv concert is, no doubt, memorable for all those who was then at the concert hall – and, apart from them, all of their relatives and acquaintances, because the sensations then had to find at least some way out) Non-speaking about it was just dangerous, and impossible as well… And – that was speaking enthusiastically, selflessly, and partly – silently (because this music is still much greater than any words), with light in the eyes, warm shine on the face – right? I’m sure that I’m right. Between the hall and the scene, a mystery of incredible might and depth took place, that was Music that for some time melted the several hundreds of various, separate souls – into the joint, large, live heart. I think that on that evening there was enough love to prevent or stop some war in the world – and probably, in the end, so it happened… That is why it seems to me that one such concert is worth a dozen of other nice concerts – because this was not nice. This was – truthful light magic. I know: the real soul of music opens up exactly on such evenings – in full, and no matter whether it is called jazz.
But it matters that this is live music, which takes place here and now, which not only causes reaction, but also instantly reacts, breathes, changes, acquires a new clarity. If I’m not mistaken, “To the Bird” was performed by Avishai Cohen after his modest warning: – Now I will do this for the first time, – and he did! However, the essence here is not even technical skills, no. Just sometimes there happen performances, when it seems that the high sky went down on earth, and this is a wonderful experience. But others also happen, when one feels the earth flying up into the sky – and this is indescribably beautiful… The music by Avishai Cohen Trio on that evening was exactly like that – and let you be able to feel at least a particle of this sincere, warm beauty… (by Milan Asadurov)
Oh, what a night, what a concert … listen for example to “The Ever Evolving Etude” … sounds like a musical orgasm … and … he played a very special version of the Beatles classic “Come Together” !!!
Recorded live in Kiev Conservatory Hall on November 29, 2007
Avishai Cohen (bass, vocals)
Mark Juiliana (drums)
Shai Maestro (piano)
01. Elli (Cohen) 9.04
02. Gently Disturbed (Cohen) 6.45
03. The Ever Evolving Etude (Cohen) 7.21
04. Ani Maamin (Shlonsky) 11.26
05. Remembering (Cohen) 7.12
06. Eleven Wives (Cohen) 5.29
07. To The Bird (Cohen) 5.48
08. Come Together (Lennon/McCarntey) 4.46