Groove – Episode #102: Avishai Cohen

Avishai Cohen

Photo by Andreas Terlaak

Around this time last year, I eagerly represented the No Treble community at the Festival International De Jazz De Montreal in my hometown. With that, I still bought tickets to see the acclaimed Israeli bass sensation Avishai Cohen and his trio.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, Covid still foiled the best-laid plans. Avishai’s gear got lost in travel, and his piano player never made it. Avishai soldiered on to a sold-out crowd that hung over his every note played.

The Jazz Fest returns this month to Montreal (June 29 – July 8), and we have lined up a series of incredible conversations for this podcast. Avishai is returning to the Fest with his trio to finish what he started (the tour surrounding the incredible album, Shifting Sands) while also on the cusp of releasing his latest, Iroko, which he recorded with Abraham Rodriguez Jr.

If you have not been following the four-stringed adventures of Avishai, it’s time to jump on this non-stop bullet train of music. Born in Kabri, Israel, Avishai has been a transformative figure in jazz. His innovative approach to the bass has brought the instrument into the spotlight and expanded the boundaries of jazz itself. His work has garnered international awards and global recognition, and his unique compositions have found their way into films, TV, and other media.

After moving to St. Louis, Missouri, with his family at the age of fourteen, he continued his piano studies and discovered the bass guitar. The electric bass captivated him when his teacher introduced him to the music of luminary bassist Jaco Pastorius and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. After serving for two years in an Israeli army band, Avishai took a significant step and moved to New York City at the age of 22.

Despite the initial challenges, he managed to carve out a unique musical identity, performing on the streets and working in construction to make ends meet. His perseverance paid off when he enrolled at the New School in New York City and became a contemporary of artists such as Brad Mehldau and Peter Bernstein. A call from Chick Corea in 1997 changed everything.

After listening to a demo tape Avishai had passed to one of Corea’s friends, Corea was so impressed that he invited Avishai to become a co-founder of his Original ensemble and a member of his New Trio. For over six years, Avishai became integral to Corea’s music, honing his skills as a bassist, composer, and bandleader. Avishai’s first four albums were released under Corea’s label, Stretch Records, and already featured the essence of his musical vision and original compositions. His music, which blends Mediterranean and Latin influences with the use of horns and vocals, creates a truly unique sound.

In 2002, Avishai created his own record label, Razdaz Recordz, which allowed him to follow his path and record talented young musicians he believed in.

So many albums over the years and tours, and Avishai feels like he is just getting started.

Enjoy the conversation…

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