Avishai Cohen: Mystical Changes
AC: Yes, I am still very scared when I have to sing, even if afterwards it is so soothing and connective. But in the beginning it took me a while to accept my voice. It's a process you have to go through.
AAJ: What is the relation to your instrument? Are you using your voice to underline the bass line or to complete it?
AC: Sometimes I do both. I use it as a second voice especially with the bow, or in company with pizzicato. I use it in unison with the bow, there's a lot of effect that you can get like that. It sounds like bass clarinet or something similar.
AAJ: When you are composing your music, is the approach conceptual or rather accidental, inspirational?
AC: It is usually just a sequence in my life. I stop somewhere and say; OK I have all these compositions, let's start working on them. And then you look at what goes on a record. Whenever I do a record, that's also a recording of my own life and of where I have been in it at that time. When I write, it may be accidental but I trust myself enough to care and provide a life for it. You have to trust yourself and be very alert at the same time. It is a combination of letting yourself go, and not knowing where you are going.
AAJ: Do you remember how you came to your first composition?
AC: I was sitting at the piano at home. I was probably nine or ten, and my sister had a piano in her room. She used to study and I sat there and things came upthat was before I had even studiedand I sort of identified some patterns. All my knowledge of music I had at that time came from the radio. I remember I was very interested in it. So I started studying.
AAJ: Jazz is synergy and connection. How much in an album is you, and how much the others in your group?
Avishai Cohen:The music is just as good as the people who are playing it. The musicians have a huge influence on it, but, with due respect, the composition is not the end of the story; it is only a part of it, a structure and an identity. It is very important what you make of it after that.
AAJ: On Gently Disturbed (Sunnyside, 2008), as on most of your albums, there is a certain rhythmical brand, a kind of syncopation or counterpoint, which gives a tremendous inner drive. Did anything special happen there that made that pattern so pregnant?
AC: Many things happened there. It was in a global sense a very favorable momentthe sky and the moon were aligned. Beside the atmospherethe identity of the recordit was the way we played it. We were very much alive when we recorded it and that's why it came out like that.
AAJ: I know what Jaco Pastorius means to you. Nevertheless, are you also following an inner model, are you relating to a certain personal evolutionary pattern'?
AC: When I was younger I wanted to be an influential musician, a big thing. Today I have reached that state of beauty to be one, if I may say that. Now that I have become somewhat influential, I just want to keep it that way, to live up to it.
AAJ: This is indeed a beautiful thing because it also implies a sense of responsibility.
AC: Always. A composition would not exist without responsibility, and that's the basis of the real influence through art. This is something you have to keep up with. It is an ongoing process. You have all these young eager musicians, the young masters, the new talents, who can play the music and they have an attitude as well, so through and with them I have to make sure I am staying. They are like a mirror. Their input is very potent.
AAJ: You are very busy all through the year, but leave a few summer months free. Are you actually still practicing?
AC: Not so much in the classical sense, because you play a lot almost every day, and after a while you reach a certain level of expertise. We practice in a different way. In our head, which is a very important thingvisualizing music, working out music and dreaming it. The music never dies in that sense; it is ever going on in your hear. Sometimes when you are practicing, you don't have the capacity or the ability to go through other things in your head as much as when you listen to music. And some other times you don't want to listen to music because you have to listen to the music that goes on inside your head. As I am maturing I find myself more often studying the music without an instrument.
AAJ: Do you get time to listen to music? What are you listening to?
AC: Always. Everything. I am listening to whatever is played. I listen to Bach and I listen to Mozart. I listen to Paco De Lucia and to new records or bands I hear about or I receive, because I receive a lot of records. I listen to anything. I listen all the time and I absorb it and I process it. Take Bach. Bach is still the most challenging music I've ever heard.
AAJ: Are there goals you aim to attain in a concrete manner?
AC: I am writing for a string quartet and oboe. This is something I will want to bring out next year, or in 2013. I am also very interested in doing a project in conjunction with flamenco musicians, with a Ladino connotation.