This past Friday ECM released its second album featuring jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen, following up on his debut album, Into The Silence, which was released in February of 2016. The title of the new album is Cross My Palm with Silver; and Cohen leads a quartet, which he describes as his “dream team.” The other members form his rhythm section of piano (Yonathan Avishai), bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Nasheet Waits).
No explanation is given for the title, which seems to suggest a Gypsy fortune teller. The title of the final track, “50 Years And Counting,” cab be taken as a connotation of the threshold of old age. However, Cohen himself was born in 1978; so he is clearly not the 50-year-old who might approach a fortune teller to learn about what fate has in store for the rest of his life. One might also take that title as kvetching about approaching old age; and similar kvetching might be deduced from the track title “Shoot Me In The Leg” and the opening track “Will I Die, Miss? Will I Die?”
However, Cohen’s rhetoric with his trumpet is anything but kvetching. Instead, it tends to be quietly meditative in a style that one encounters among only a few of the really good jazz trumpeters. When it comes to quiet trumpet music from the past, my own preference tends to run towards Art Farmer, particularly since his You Make Me Smile album includes an arrangement of one of Alexander Scriabin’s piano preludes!
Cohen’s quietude, however, inhabits a distinctively difference space. For example, “Shoot Me In The Leg” ends on a note of wistfulness with thematic content suggesting that the trumpet is calling to the solo bassoon from the beginning of Igor Stravinsky’s score for the ballet “The Rite of Spring.” This is music to be enjoyed for the clarity of its delivery and for Cohen’s ability to draw the listener into his melodies, rather than confront him/her with them. Perhaps this is how, as an Israeli, he reacts to the disconcertingly confrontational stances that the current government of his country keeps taking.
Like many other musicians born in Israel, Cohen lives with the conviction that the act of making music is one that cannot afford to be constrained by national borders or by governments obsessed with such borders; perhaps this album, with its backhanded reference to fate in the title, is his subtle way of letting his country know what his own priorities are.