Israeli-born trumpeter/composer Avishai Cohen is an adventurous, forward-thinking musician who has performed in various ensembles mixing avant-garde jazz, post-bop, and klezmer.
Initially emerging as a fiery young lion on the East Coast in the late '90s, Cohen has drawn acclaim for his broad artistry delving into modern creative jazz on 2003's trio date The Trumpet Player, and offering atmospheric lyricism on albums like his 2016 ECM debut Into the Silence. He also leads several other projects, including his Triveni trio, Third World Love with bassist Omer Avital, and the 3 Cohens with his siblings, clarinetist Anat Cohen and saxophonist Yuval Cohen.
Born in 1978 in Tel Aviv, Cohen was interested in music from a young age and by his teens was a member of the Young Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and in 1997 achieved third place in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Trumpet Competition. Since graduating, Cohen has performed with a variety of artists, including vocalists Claudia Acuña and Keren Ann, vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, and many others. He is also a member of such ensembles as Third World Love with bassist Omer Avital, the avant-garde Lemon Juice Quartet, and the SFJAZZ Collective.
Cohen made his debut as a leader in 2003 with The Trumpet Player, followed by the expansive, world music-infused After the Big Rain in 2007. More genre-bending, avant-garde-leaning albums followed in 2008 with Seven and Flood, the second part of the Big Rain trilogy. Also around this time he joined pianist Jason Linder for 2009's Now vs. Now and augmented trombonist Rafi Malkiel's ensemble for 2010's Water.
Returning to his own groups, Cohen next debuted his Ornette Coleman- and Don Cherry-influenced Triveni trio with Introducing Triveni in 2010. A year later, he came on board as a member of the SFJazz Collective for the 2011 concert Music of Stevie Wonder and New Compositions: Live in New York 2011 Season 8. He then returned to his solo work with 2012's Triveni II, after which he joined saxophonist Mark Turner's quartet for 2014's Lathe of Heaven. Also in 2014, the trumpeter reconvened his Triveni trio for the intimate session Dark Nights.
In 2016, Cohen made his ECM debut with Into the Silence, featuring saxophonist Bill McHenry, pianist Yonathan Avishai, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Nasheet Waits. Recorded in the wake of his father's death, the album showcased a more introspective and atmospheric sound from the trumpeter. The following year, he gathered the same ensemble (with bassist Barak Mori replacing Revis) for his second ECM effort, Cross My Palm with Silver. He and pianist Avishai then collaborated on the 2019 duo album Playing the Room.
After returning to Israel in 2013, Cohen jumped headfirst into its fruitful jazz scene and renewed ties with old friends by sitting in at gigs and playing informal sessions together. A select group of them formed the quintet Big Vicious. Given his own touring and recording schedules, Cohen wasn't always around to work with them, however. In August of 2019, they all traveled to a French studio to record with producer Manfred Eicher. The quintet, now named Big Vicious, comprised Cohen on trumpet and electronics, guitarists Uzi Ramirez and Yonatan Albalak (who also played electric bass), and drummers Aviv Cohen and Ziv Ravitz (who also did live samples). The group wrote five new tracks, and combined them with four Cohen tunes and a pair of covers: Massive Attack's "Teardrop" and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. The final result, Big Vicious, was issued in March of 2020 by ECM. It marked one of the quickest turnarounds -- from pre-production to completed mastering and release -- in the label's 50-year history. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi