Avishai Cohen: Trumpet Trio Makes Strong Mark
The "jazz star" thing, whatever that may be, isn't really on his radar. Cohen is more practical, aware that the road he and his peers travel is one that is evolving. Jazz requires learning and evolution, but it offers longevity. The environment for music today is one in which what thrills the masses today, does today, and not necessarily next weekor tomorrow.
"It's instant culture," he says. "Everything is instant today.
"You have those TV shows. 'Let's create a band.' You take four chicks. Kind of teach them how to sing. It doesn't really matter if they know how to sing because you can fix that later (in studio). Someone's going to write them the music, someone's going to make the choreography, someone's going to make costumes that look good. Here is the working formula," says Cohen. "The funny thing is that it works. It's the right catchy phrase. It's a hit song. But the artists themselves don't need any time to mature into that. They don't need to mature as a songwriter, because someone's going to write it for them. You don't have to mature as a singer, because they'll fix it later. You don't have to mature as a human being because your audience is not mature. That's why some of them disappear. They're not ready for it.
"But with jazz artists ... a beginner jazz artist in New York has maybe 15 years of practice behind him, relatively. Not to mention when you grow old, you have more. I'm playing for almost a quarter of a century. It's been 25 years since I started playing music. That's a lot of time to put into it. In a funny way, I don't necessarily want to blow it off ... If you get to your peak now, you can only fall from there. You want to grow. You want to play the truth, to play my truth. Whatever I have. To find the best way that I can convey what I have into the horn, into the music, into my compositions. The more I think about it, stardom is something that can easily take you away from that ... I would very much watch out for that 'star is born,' American Idol type of mentality. It's not for me. It's for some people. Unfortunately, it's what people like to see, like to hear."
He adds, "I don't think entertainment should be put out of the equation. I like to see an artist that is an entertainer. I went to see Hugh Masekela the other night. It was nice. I don't know If I would bring a CD home and listen to it 50 times. But, it was one of the most incredible shows as far as the way he had it, as an entertainer. He was amazing ... There has to be a way to incorporate entertainment in jazz. I'm all for it. We are playing for people. You want to find that place that combines art and that too. It's all about communication. Entertainment should be about communication. You want to convey something. I want to convey my feelings. But you have to treat your audience somewhat. Address them."
Cohen's musical tastes are not strictly jazz, he notes. ."I like any music that is good music ... I like anything that vibrates. Anything that tells you something. Even in jazz, I like whatever talks to me. It's not that I like all the jazz I hear. Not even close to it. Sometimes I prefer to listen to a good pop song. Or Bob Marley."
One of his newest projects addresses those feelings, stretches beyond jazz and into rock and funk-type things. He hasn't quite nailed down a name for the band, he says, but it consists of his own trumpet; Yuval Lion and Mark Guiliana on drums; Nir Felder on guitar, Jason Lindner on keyboards, his sister, Anat, on bass clarinet; and Shanir Blumenkranz on bass. The band has played many Sunday nights at Nublu, in New York's East Village. "Everything is electric," he says. "Even the trumpet is electric. This is playing some different standards. A different kind of American songbook. Led Zeppelin, Sean Paul. Different covers. And originals, of course."
"Other than that," says the level-headed trumpet player, he is "just reminding myself every day that I'm healthy. My family's healthy. That's the most important thing. That's something I'm working hard on in my life to remind myself that every day. Because life is short ... I have a lot of places to grow, career-wise. But I guess everything has it's time."