Born and raised in Israel, Avishai Cohen has often combined Middle Eastern and Israeli music with both electric and acoustic jazz.
Cohen began studying the piano at age 11 and was 14 when he became interested in jazz. After playing piano in a high school jazz band, he switched to the electric bass and soon fell in love with the music of Jaco Pastorius. Cohen was 16 when he enrolled in the Music & Arts High School in Jerusalem, and as a young adult, he played a few local gigs before being drafted into the Israeli army. When Cohen's two years in the military ended, he was able to concentrate on jazz once again and decided to try the acoustic bass, which became his main instrument for much of the '90s.
In 1992, Cohen moved to New York without having any real connections there, and ended up paying the rent being a mover and a construction worker. But after making some connections in the New York jazz scene, he went on to play live gigs with such notables as Ravi Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Paquito D'Rivera, Roy Hargrove, and Leon Parker. One of his most fruitful associations was with Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez, who employed him on his 1996 session, Panamonk.
After coming to the attention of Chick Corea and his longtime business partner, Ron Moss, Cohen was signed to their Stretch label and recorded his first album, Adama, in 1997. The following year, Corea hired Cohen to play in his newly created acoustic outfit, Origin. Colors was released in mid-2000, after which Cohen moved back to Israel. Also around this time, he formed his own RazDaz, releasing 2005's At Home and 2006's Continuo, both of which found him exploring a more varied stylistic palette, from jazz to funk, rock to ethnic fusion. The trio effort Gently Disturbed appeared in 2008, followed by Aurora in 2009.
Two years later, Cohen moved to Blue Note for Seven Seas. He then joined pianist Nitai Hershkovits for 2012's Duende. The classical and Middle Eastern-tinged Almah followed a year later. The bassist then recorded again with Hershkovits, and drummer Daniel Dor, for the serious-minded trio effort From Darkness on RazDaz. In 2017, he delivered the soulful, genre-bending studio effort 1970. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi