Friday, January 30, 2009

Avishai Cohen's Big Rain

Avishai Cohen's "After the Big Rain," which prominently featured keyboardist Jason Lindner and guitarist Lionel Loueke, was one of the best albums of 2007; the only problem brought up by the glossies, if it could be called a problem, was that the album sounded more like a Lionel Loueke record than an Avishai Cohen record. Cohen, who has probably had to spend his entire life contending with people asking "Avishai Cohen, you mean like the bass player," was probably miffed at these reviews. "Flood," the second part in his "Big Rain" trilogy, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the vision behind these albums is his and his alone.

Lindner and Loueke are both gone, and while their playing was part of what made "After the Big Rain" such a rich album they are not missed here. Cohen opted for a bass-less trio, and the only hold-over from "After the Big Rain" is drummer Daniel Freedman (the other member of the trio is pianist Yonatan Avishai, who together with Freedman and Cohen make up 3/4s of Third World Love). There are obvious differences between the two albums: "After the Big Rain" featured cutting edge electronics while "Flood" is all acoustic; "After the Big Rain" featured vocals on many tracks courtesy of Loueke. The differences are all surface though- Cohen's vision for the two albums is in many ways identical. Motifs from "Big Rain" resurface on "Flood," and his playing on the new album is related if not identical to his playing on "After the Big Rain."

Musically, "Flood" is exactly like it's title. The sounds- initial drips of Avishai's piano which lead to waves of Freedman's percussion and finally violent cascades of Cohen's trumpet- evoke quite literally the sounds of a flood. In a sense, "Flood" is a more unified album musically than "After the Big Rain," as the band has a tendency to act more like a single musician than on the previous album; on "Big Rain" there was usually a clear soloist, and while the band was interactive, it was easy to tell whose turn it was. On "Flood," however, the players weave in and out organically, for the service of the music and the concept. Highly recommended.

I'm curious to hear Cohen's next record, which according to his website will be the first part of this trilogy ("Before the Flood?" "Before the Big Rain?" "Clouds?"), and will be a big band date. After "After the Big Rain," an odd instrumentation combo record, and "Flood," a bass-less trio record, it will be interesting to hear how Cohen's concept fits into a large ensemble.

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