Review: ‘Avishai Cohen Sextet’

Since debuting as a leader five years ago, trumpeter Avishai Cohen has wandered deeply into a decidedly personal -- but not inaccessible -- garden of forking paths.

Since debuting as a leader five years ago, trumpeter Avishai Cohen has wandered deeply into a decidedly personal — but not inaccessible — garden of forking paths. He’s explored moody atmospherics and pan-ethnic sonic meshes, always paying close attention to the oft-ignored adage that it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

At this perf, staged in support of his recently released Anzic album “After the Big Rain,” Cohen led his sextet through a heated collection of tightly structured pieces that evinced strong ties to traditional Cuban music — evident in the chekere playing of Yosvany Terry — without exuding the feel of a sonic travelogue.

Cohen’s tone was a bit more purposefully soft-focus than usual, an effect he achieved by running his trumpet through a battery of electronics that somehow made the instrument sound more, rather than less, organic. That tone was clearest on the set’s mellower numbers, particularly the breezy “Afterthoughts” and the languid “Miryama.”

Much of the 75-minute set was given over to pieces with more of an African flavor. The foundation of chattering percussion that underlaid “Parto Forte,” for instance, made sitting still a difficult proposition. While the drum-circle roar sometimes drowned out Cohen and pianist Jason Lindner, the vibe was more celebratory than dissonant.

Beninese guitarist Lionel Loueke, who recently signed to Blue Note as a leader, contributed honeyed vocals to a brace of songs. Loueke took charge most effectively on the hypnotic “Gbede Demin,” a song — originally done by his trio Gilfema — that underscored the cohesiveness of the ensemble, as well as the communal feel Cohen was striving to impart.

Avishai Cohen Sextet

Jazz Standard; 140 seats; $20

Production

Presented by Festival Prods. Musicians: Avishai Cohen, Lionel Loueke, Jason Lindner, Omer Avital, Daniel Freedman, Yosvany Terry. Reviewed June 27, 2007.
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