This is really good music. Composing 11 of the 14 tracks, bassist Avishai Cohen evidences a conceptual and aesthetic breadth that is amazing. Drawing on influences as varied as his own Israeli heritage to Latin and African rhythms, to jazz from the hardbop tradition, Cohen manages to sound rich and new, rather than derivative. He began on the electric bass, deeply influenced by Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke, and then moved on to the upright. Cohen plays both acoustic and electric bass on Devotion, as well as piano, synthesizer, and percussion. His facility with these instruments lends itself to the complexity of his compositions. Cohen is especially happy to write pieces which stretch our expectations, as for example writing bass lines in conjunction with the oud (on “Musa”), a string quartet (Ti-Da-Do-Di-Do) featuring Cohen overdubbing with the bass and Danny Freedman accompanying on balafon.
Devotion is Cohen’s second album as a leader. The first, Adama, was also released on Stretch Records, and received critical acclaim. Before settling in NY in 1992, Cohen spent most of his life in Isreal (except for a brief period in the 80s when he lived in the U.S.). Since that time, he’s been performing with a number of musicians, including Chick Corea who is one of “Devotion’s” executive producers. “Devotion” is marked by Cohen’s interest in diaspora as both a musical practice and a cultural history. “Ot Kain” draws on a poem written by Shay Yemini, who addresses Cain’s search for peace after his murder of Abel. Cohen also turns to the rhythms of the African diaspora with songs like “Negril” and “El Capitan & The Ship at Sea.” A particularly beautiful, and all too short, piece is “Linda De Mi Corazon,” which features Cohen and singer Claudia Acuna. “Devotion” represents the work of a musician at ease, both as a performer and composer, with a number of musical influences and traditions. Cohen is an artist to keep your eye on.