Avishai Cohen: Naked Truth review | John Fordham’s jazz album of the month

(ECM Records)
An evocative mini album performed by band members who never lose their individuality is beautifully executed

Manfred Eicher, visionary founder of Munich’s boundary-busting ECM Records, once described a band led by the Tel Aviv-born, New York-honed trumpeter/composer Avishai Cohen as “one big octopus.” Eicher noticed that Cohen conjures bands in which the participants are individual limbs that react spontaneously within an ineffable group mind, yet never lose their individuality – much like the band-leading methods of Miles Davis, Cohen’s key model. Naked Truth is a barely-40-minute miniature of an album, beautifully executed and steered by the idea that improvising musicians good enough to play any headlong stream of consciousness can reveal a lot more if they sometimes play only a fraction of what they know.

In the first lockdown, Cohen focused on tiny fragments of melody that formed the cues of this nine-part improvised suite. When he took them to the studio with longtime allies Yonathan Avishai (piano), Barak Mori (bass) and Ziv Ravitz (drums), leaving out whatever felt superfluous was the rule. Cohen’s soft, perfectly rounded notes, leaning graceful lullabies into Mori’s plummy bass sound, give way to gentle piano ostinatos coaxed by whispering cymbals that build a rising insistence; elegantly classical modulations over mallet rolls resolve in mournful high-pitched horn lines and startlingly nimble runs; almost ceremonial bugle-like calls turn to quivering laments.

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