CD REVIEW: Avishai Cohen - Cross My Palm With Silver



Avishai Cohen - Cross My Palm With Silver
(ECM 572 9057. Review by Peter Bacon)

The follow-up to the trumpeter’s much-admired ECM debut, Into The Silence (ECM 475 9435), was recorded at the same studio - La Buisonne in Pernes-les-Fontaines - and again with Yonathan Avishai on piano and Nasheet Waits on drums, but with Barak Mori in for Eric Revis on bass and without saxophonist Bill McHenry.

The results are in some ways similar but in others very different. While Into The Silence seemed to constitute a very specific compositional and sonic landscape, Cross My Palm With Silver feels like some kind of border territory, an area of transition and without as strong or fully-formed an identity.

Clearly, with the reduction from quintet to quartet, there is a paring back of the timbral and layered richness of the band’s music, but there is a paring back in melodic material too.

The opening track, Will I Die, Miss? Will I Die? has a concise descending motif, more a little note pattern rather than a fully fledged tune, but the band do a lot with it over its 10 minutes, first Cohen and Avishai in duet, then Mori entering, sharing the melody line with Avishai while Waits shimmers his cymbals, before the piece breaks out into a jazz waltz with the whole band interweaving, passing the baton back and forth.

There is also a lot less resolution on this album. A piece like Theme For Jimmy Greene never really settles, preferring to remain in tension and suspension for most of its five-and-a-half minutes.

There is the same marvellous ability within the band for it to move into and out of seemingly free playing at will, a real sense of freedom, but whereas on the 2016 disc the players sounded like they found what they were seeking, in the 2017 one the seek element far outstrips the find - to my ears, anyway. Or maybe it’s just that the band, which spent much of last year on the road, is happier now in these more nebulous regions. They certainly all play superbly and the band has remarkable cohesion with a very specific identity; it doesn’t sound like any other.

As before the recording is superb. Just listen to Cohen’s trumpet at the close of Shoot Me In The Leg - the band falling away to leave their leader shooting high silver shards up into the heavens, with the reverberation of the room adding an extra shiver of gleam.

I go back to Into The Silence and still find new and rewarding treasures there; I will return to Cross My Palm With Silver but it’s more with a need to try to get hold of its elusive quality. In the coming months I suspect I may be more satisfyingly rewarded. One thing is for sure: Avishai Cohen is a musician with a lot more yet to say.

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