Image Credit: Gülcan Acar
While bassists are often the backbone of musical groups, it is atypical for the bassist to take the front-and-center stage. However, Avishai Cohen and his trio are anything but typical. At their performance at the EFG London Jazz Festival, the trio was on fire. Their songs were so sonically layered that it seemed almost unbelievable that only three instruments were creating such sounds. As exceptional jazz musicians learn to do, throughout the performance Avishai Cohen and his trio weaved in-and-out of each other’s way providing a space for the music to expand, swell, and eventually reach a resolution. It is a treat to watch Cohen perform, as it is clear that he truly loves what he is doing. Dancing with his giant double bass in hand, it’s not difficult to see Cohen’s pure enthrallment as the grandiose instrument becomes simply an extension of his body.
Though the show’s main focus was on bassist and composer Avishai Cohen, he was not overly self-indulgent. He often stopped playing to make room for his bandmates’ solos, and it was clear from his facial expressions that he was equally as happy to listen to them as to create music himself. Consisting of the pianist Elchin Shirinov and the drummer Roni Kaspi, Cohen’s trio is made up of incredibly talented jazz musicians, each of whom would stand out as the best player in any other group but who are right at home playing with each other. Of particular note was Cohen’s drummer, Roni Kaspi. While Avishai Cohen’s trio received three standing ovations, brought on by the two sets of encores the band performed, Kaspi’s final solo was met by a standing ovation simply for her. While this final solo was particularly exceptional, the percussionist was stellar throughout. She brought with her a ferocious intensity and insanely precise, yet loose sense of rhythm. But—when you are filling out the rhythm section with a bassist as proficient as Avishai Cohen—you need to play with as much fervor as Roni Kaspi brought to her playing.
Image Credit: Gülcan Acar
Nikki Yeoh’s Café Oran, the supporting act that opened for Avishai Cohen’s trio is also worth noting and was a great way to start the evening. Named after the American bars that Maurice El Médioni used to frequent while in Oran, Algeria in the 1940s, Nikki Yeoh’s Café Oran paid tribute to the artist and brought his unique style of music, a mix of boogie-woogie, Cuban, and Arabic influences, to the Barbican’s stage. The trio combined Médioni’s music with Nikki Yeoh’s original compositions for an innovative take on an already, previously groundbreaking jazz musician. To top this off, the trio also performed their uptempo, jazz take on the Bob Dylan classic, ‘Hurricane.’
Click here to keep up with the EFG London Jazz Festival and all other events on offer through the Southbank Centre.