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Avishai Cohen :: Latin jazz is something, what I have always been naturally attracted to
by Leonid Auskern

Israeli-born jazz bassist, composer and pianist Avishai Cohen began to study music and professionally playing in his homeland. Later he came to the USA and continued his studying in New School and Mannes College of Music in New York. Cohen began to play Latin Music and Jazz in different bands in his student years and later he got the call from pianist Danilo Perez to join his trio.

In 1996 Avishai Cohen became a founding member of Chick Corea's sextet 'Origin'. He worked with Corea many years and it was a great experience for the young musician. Until late in 2003 Avishai was a member of the Chick Corea New Trio and has accompanied other jazz note-worthies, including Bobby McFerrin, Roy Hargrove, Herbie Hancock, Nnenna Freelon, Paquito D'Rivera. He helped Chilean vocalist Claudia Acuña in the work on her first album. His first four albums as a leader were released for Corea's Stretch imprint: Adama (1998), Devotion (1999), Colors (2000) and, with the International Vamp Band, Unity (2001). Besides that, Avishai has recently made a studio recording with Pop-Soul artist Alicia Keys, and performed concert works with the London Philharmonic Orchestra or the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

He has been called a "jazz visionary of global proportions" by DownBeat and was declared one of the 100 Most Influential Bass Players of the 20th Century by Bass Player Magazine.

His last two albums were released on his own label Razdaz Records. The freshest his album At Home" (2005) was reviewed in our magazine (Jazz-Quad, # 3/05). Now Avishai is on a worldwide tour with his current working group, in support of this new, fresh and energy-packed musical project. We gratitude Yason Byrne from the Red Cat Publicity, New York for his help in the organization of this interview.

Leonid Auskern (Jazz-Quadrat): Hi and Shalom, Avishai! It seems to me, this interview will be yours the first for the Russian language readers of former Soviet Union. That's why I'll begin from the very beginning. My first question is about the roots. Are you from the musical family?

Avishai Cohen: Hello! I'm from a musical family, which loves music, especially classical music. Nobody is a musician in the family, but everybody loves music. My parents always listen to music, especially classical. I grew up on the sounds of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and other composers. My musical influences other than this are Arabic music, Spanish music, Black music, Afro-Cuban and more.

L. A.: What can you say about situation with jazz in Israel and your's personal way to this kind of music?

A. C.: The jazz scene in Israel has grown very much in the last ten years and that makes me very happy. I think, part of the reason is because of my contribution to the jazz in New York, which made a connection to young musicians in Israel.

L. A.: I know, that firstly you began to play piano. How did you decide to become a bass player?

A. C.: I don't know, it just happened when I was a teenager. I tried the electric bass and fell in love with bass.

L. A.: Is there any difference between systems of jazz education in Israel and in USA?

A. C.: There is not a big difference; basically the Israeli system comes from the American.

L. A.: What are the reasons of your interest to Latin Jazz? In what circumstances you began to play with Danilo Perez?

A. C.: Latin jazz is something, what I have always been naturally attracted to, and when I came to New York, I studied it with Andy Gonzales and played with great Latin musicians. After a while people heard, that I could play both jazz and Latin very well, and that's way someone, like Danilo, called me to play with them.

L. A.: Years with Corea. Was Chick one of your favorite musicians in your childhood? What are your impressions from contacts with Chick? What did these years gave to you as to composer and instrumentalist?

A. C.: Chick was definitely one of my childhood influences in music, and that's why playing with him was great. I have learned many things from him about music and about being a bandleader too.

L. A.: Your first albums, from Adama" to Unity", were released on Stretch Records. Why did you decide to organize your own label?

A. C.: I decided to do my own label, so I can be more free to do exactly the music, that I love, without interference of a record company, and that I could one day provide that to younger musicians that I believe in.

L. A.: Jazz world knows you as a composer, a bass player and as a piano player too. Can you name your favorite jazz (or may be, not only jazz) composers, bassists and pianists?

A. C.: My favorite composers are Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Stevie Wonder. My favorite piano players are Glen Gould, Brad Melhdaw, Chick Corea, Eddie Palmieri. My favorite bassists are Jaco Pastorius, Bobby Rodrigues, Jimmy Merrit, Oscar Pettiford, Scott La Faro.

L. A.: John Zorn, Frank London, Antony Coleman and some other New York musicians mix Jewish folk and religious music with jazz. What do you think about such experiments? Is it interesting for you?

A. C.: It's definitely interesting! It's good to have these guys around, they make the music have more variety!

L. A.: Your music is a fusion of Latin, Middle East and Afroamerican elements. Can we expect appearance of some new melodic or rhythmic ingredients from another musical cultures in your future works?

A.C.: Of course, when I meet the right artist to explore that, I will definitely love to do it!

L. A.: You helped Chilean singer Claudia Acuna to create her first album Wind From The South". Are you planning to continue this collaboration?

A. C.: The collaborating with Claudia was great and I'm sure, we will do it again one day. I'm happy, that I could help her!

L. A.: Your last album is named At Home". Where is at home Avishai Cohen: in Israel, in USA, or in the hotel room between two concerts, when you are on the road?

A. C.: Home is anywhere, where the music is: in Israel, in New York, in Europe. It's all over the world and that's why I named it At Home".

L. A.: I wish you good health and new successes! Thank you very much for your answers.

A. C.: Thank you and good luck!

published 13.07.2005 2005 jazz news :: home page

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