COMPOSERS: Avishai Cohen
LABELS: Stretch
PERFORMER: Avishai Cohen (db, elb, p, Fender Rhodes, v), Jason Lindner (p), Jimmy Greene (ts, ss, fl), Amos Hoffman (g, oud), Avi Lebovich, Steve Davis (tb), Jeff Ballard (d, perc), etc


Jazz-rock fusion, the most maligned and misunderstood genre in jazz, has nonetheless shown that, by its vitality and great variety of manifestations, it has as much validity as any other form. It’s some 30 years since the genre appeared and the two band leaders here, both in their thirties, have found dynamic new things to say in the form.

Avishai Cohen and Davide Mantovani are virtuoso bassists and gifted composer-arrangers; the former was born in Israel and is now resident in the USA and the latter, born in Italy, now lives in London. For Colors, his third album for Stretch records, Cohen composed 12 of the 13 compositions and co-wrote the 13th. He handles the dense soundscape of his septet with great plasticity and invention. The compositions are the crown and the solos the jewels in the crown.

The title track opens with string quartet and piano lyrical and hymnal, the band joins in sweetly, then piano and rhythm move into fast waltz time with bravura solos, tricky ensemble writing and an elegiac ending – pure drama. ‘Arka’ is a lighter rhapsodic piece featuring only piano, bass and percussion, with some fine melodic writing. ‘Balkan’ shows a slight Chick Corea influence in the theme and ensemble, and has an Eastern feel with its burbling oud.

Colors is rich in its musical approaches and devices, its palette of emotions and its soloists. Square One is so named because it is Mantovani’s debut album, and it’s a very impressive beginning. His basic group is a quintet without any low brass instruments and so the general sound is lighter and airier than that of the Cohen band.

Again there is much detail in the composing, much variety in the music, excellent musicianship and one or two echoes from the past. The opening piece ‘Promenade’ evokes the poetic spirit of Eberhard Weber’s music with its soprano sax lead and deft changes of pace. ‘Brotherly’ has an easy loping Latin rock feel and a catchy melody, with a big percussion outing and excellent solos from Beaujolais’s vibes and Hunt’s acoustic guitar.


‘Walking at Shiva’s Pace’ has a wonderfully slow and sparse rhythm and spare melody reminiscent of Zawinul, with a marvellous soprano solo by Gerry Hunt. Steve Lodder shines on the fast Latin ‘Beyond Fears’, and the rhythm section is excellent throughout.