Playing The Room

Avishai Cohen, Yonathan Avishai

EN / DE
Playing The Room bears testimony to the long musical friendship of Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai. They began to explore jazz as teenagers in Tel Aviv, and have continued to play together over many years, with Yonathan making important contributions to Avishai’s group albums Into The Silence and Cross My Palm With Silver on ECM. Their first duo album begins with music composed by the trumpeter and by the pianist and concludes with a touching interpretation of Israeli composer Alexander Argov’s cradle song “Shir Eres”. Along the way, Avishai and Yonathan improvise – freely, playfully, soulfully – on themes from jazz tradition. And, as the album titles implies, they also invite the recording space, the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, to be part of the sound, making full use of its resonant acoustic properties in a performance with the intimacy and focus of chamber music. The album was recorded in September 2018, and produced by Manfred Eicher.
Playing The Room zeugt von der langen musikalischen Freundschaft zwischen Avishai Cohen und Yonathan Avishai. Als Teenager in Tel Aviv begannen sie den Jazz zu erforschen und spielten über viele Jahre hinweg zusammen, wobei Yonathan wichtige Beiträge zu Avishais Alben ‚Into The Silence‘ und ‚Cross My Palm With Silver‘ auf ECM leistete. Ihr erstes Duoalbum beginnt mit einer Komposition des Trompeters und des Pianisten und endet mit einer berührenden Interpretation von Alexander Argovs Wiegenlied "Shir Eres". Unterwegs improvisieren Avishai und Yonathan – frei, spielerisch, gefühlvoll – zu Themen der Jazzgeschichte. Und wie der Albumtitel andeutet, laden sie auch den Aufnahmeraum, das Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, ein, Teil des Klangs zu sein und seine resonanten akustischen Eigenschaften, in einer Performance mit der Intimität und dem Fokus der Kammermusik, voll auszuschöpfen. Playing The Room wurde im September 2018 aufgenommen und von Manfred Eicher produziert und ist als audiophiles Vinylalbum und CD erhältlich.
Featured Artists Recorded

September 2018, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano

  • 1The Opening
    (Avishai Cohen)
    04:32
  • 2Two Lines
    (Yonathan Avishai)
    06:25
  • 3Crescent
    (John Coltrane)
    08:28
  • 4Azalea
    (Duke Ellington)
    03:41
  • 5Kofifi Blue
    (Abdullah Ibrahim)
    06:29
  • 6Dee Dee
    (Ornette Coleman)
    03:28
  • 7Ralph's New Blues
    (Milt Jackson)
    04:33
  • 8Sir Duke
    (Stevie Wonder)
    03:41
  • 9Shir Eres (Lullaby)
    (Alexander Argov, Nathan Alterman)
    04:35
Ein Musterbeispiel für die Magie zwischen zwei offenohrigen Musikern, die einander schätzen und sich ganz auf den Moment einlassen. […] In ihrem Duo lassen sie alles Beiwerk beiseite ud konzentrieren sich auf das Wesentliche: auf neun Kompositionen, aus deren Gestalt, aus den Melodien, den Harmonien und den Momenten der Stille sie ihre sehr individuelle und poetische Vision der Jazzgeschichte entwerfen.
Stefan Hentz, Jazzthing
 
Beide haben sie natürlich die gesamte Jazz-Geschichte intus und längst zu ihrem ganz persönlichen Stil gefunden. Yonathan Avishai verzichtet auf jegliche plakative Opulenz und setzt auf kluge Reduktion zwecks einer tiefergehenden Optimierung des musikalischen Gehalts. Ob lyrisch-romantisch, melancholisch, verspielt avantgardistisch oder sophisticated bluesig, der Pianist erweist sich stets als perfekter Partner für Avishai Cohen, der mit seinem gleichermaßen eleganten wie ausdrucksstarken Trompetenspiel alle Arten musikalischer Stimmungen perfekt zu inszenieren versteht. Technisch perfekt, ungemein virtuos und dennoch stets auch von einer tiefen Emotionalität geprägt, die unter die Haut geht.
Peter Füßl, Kultur
 
D’un bout à la l’autre de ce recital intimiste, le raffinement de Cohen et le toucher d’Avishai ne procurent que delectation et frissons. Naguère, un John Taylor et un Keny Wheeler, ou un Bobo Stenson et un Tomasz Stanko (rêves de fan inspirés par l’immense catalogue ECM) n’auraient pas forcément fait mieux. C’est dire.
Noadya Arnoux, Jazz Magazine
 
‘Playing The Room’ is a superb nine-song chamber jazz recital. It’s a testament to the power of a close musical and personal relationship in the crafting of high quality improvised music, and to the prescience of a producer who could hear in his mind’s ear just how good this duo would sound in this space.
Gary Whitehouse, Green Man Review
 
Trumpeter Avishai Cohen and pianist Yonathan Avishai, two kindred spirits prone to appealing nuanced interaction, celebrate their old friendship and fruitful musical partnership (started at a young age when they were still living in Tel Aviv) on ‘Playing The Room’, their debut duo recording. The album includes two originals, one from each musician, and many nods to prominent artists in a variety of styles. […] Boundless in the elements from which they draw inspiration, Cohen and Yonathan prove to have a solid rapport and cook up an accessible offering stuffed with adventurous moments.
Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail
 
I have added ‘Playing the Room’ to my albums of the year list so far. Above all ‘… Room’ works because of its mastery of mood. The choice of piece whether a take on a Stevie Wonder classic or the Sasha Argov composition ‘Shir Eres’ covered in the past memorably by Noa is immaterial up to a point because as well as mood, rapport, the capturing of time and silence – and the understanding each display as the tunes navigate their passage – is all.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank
 
Der Albumtitel ‘Playing the Room’ ist gut gewählt, denn tatsächlich hat man als Zuhörer den Eindruck, in einem Raum zu sitzen und dieser auch in ihrem Romantizismus stets luziden Musik im Prozess ihres Erspieltwerdens zu lauschen. Dass auch leichtfüßige Coverversionen von so diversen Stücken wie Ornette Colemans ‘Dee Dee’ und Stevie Wonders ‘Sir Duke’ erklingen, trägt zum Reiz dieser intimen Zwiesprache noch bei.
Klaus Nüchtern, Falter
 
Avec ‘Joys and Solitudes’, Yonathan Avishai s’affirmait déjà comme un pianiste indifférent à la démonstration, concis et remarquablement attentif à la justesse de son propos. Dans ‘Playing The Room’, ses affinités avec le trompettiste Avishai Cohen renforcent cette impression. Plus tranchant, moins nostalgique, ce dernier offre un soupçon de truculence ou des douleurs plus aiguës, en contraste avec la pudeur suggestive et le romantisme ellingtonien du pianiste. Écouter leurs compositions et leurs fines relectures de John Coltrane (‘Crescent’), de Stevie Wonder (‘Sir Duke’) ou d’Abdullah Ibrahim (‘Kofifi Blue’) revient à goûter un raffinement d’exception, celui-là même auquel le nom d’ECM demeure associé, cinq décennies après sa naissance.
Louis-Julien Nicolaou, Telerama
 
Die beiden kennen sich seit 30 Jahren, und das ist ihrem Kammer-Jazz anzuhören, am schönsten im Stück ‘Two Lines”, das tatsächlich klingt, als unterhielten sich zwei enge Freunde, die aber immer noch in der Lage sind, einander zu überraschen. Auch ihre Interpretation von John Coltranes ‘Crescent’ ist überragend. Eine leise, große Kraft.
Oliver Creutz, Stern
 
As the title implies, this duo record sometimes feels like a trio album – with the famously pristine, resonant studios in Lugano, Switzerland, playing the part of the group’s third member. […] By decentering themselves as composers, Cohen and Avishai highlight their brilliance as improvisers within the tradition. And while this album depicts a pair of Israelis in Switzerland, ‘Playing The Room’ draws its strength from being steeped in the blues – whether in the playfully celebratory ‘Dee Dee’ or the more directly soulful ‘Ralph’s New Blues’. This lively and tender exploration of the two musician’s friendship shows how their skills have deepened together through a mutual dedication to the music.
Alex W. Rodriguez, Downbeat
 
Dass die beiden in heiterer Gelassenheit auch das holzgetäfelte Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI Lugano in ihre intensive-duftigen Dialoge einbeziehen, verdankt sich wie so vieles bei ECM den Klangvorstellungen von Manfred Eicher. Weshalb der zart und doch eindeutig getupfte Flügel förmlich im Raum schwebt und dabei von Avishai Cohens hypnotischer Trompete noch überflügelt wird. […] Die leuchtet wunderbar über den von Yonathan Avishai leichtgängig rhythmisierten Piano-Lines, die ihre Zwiegespräche tragen und pointiert kommentieren. Erstaunlicherweise parlieren die beiden nach zwei Originals nur noch über mehr oder minder bekannte Klassiker. Was hochspannend ist, wie exemplarisch ihre Ornette-Deutung ‘Dee Dee’ oder der feinziselierte ‘Sir Duke’ von Stevie Wonder zeigen, deren melodischer Reichtum hier zu grandioser, fast überiridischer Schönheit aufblüht.
Sven Thielmann, Stereo
 
Jazz duets are an unforgiving strand that leave no room to hide. But on this recording, not a note is out of place. The listener can relish every sweeping phase, unison trill and narrative twist. […] The album’s highlight takes Ornette Coleman’s ‘Dee Dee’ by the scruff of the neck and spins its awkward timings and blend of folk music and bebop into a spirited dialogue.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
 
Languorous and meandering and stark and bare at certain points, ‘Playing the Room’ is an intimate conversation between two Israeli players who have known each other’s music for 30 years. Three decades surely brings a certain level playing field to any potential sticky-up edges, and these two guys from Tel Aviv clearly know not just their stuff but each other’s stuff too. […] A reading of John Coltrane’s ‘Crescent’, which is particularly spacious and expansive, is one of the most effective things on the record and Duke Ellington’s ‘Azalea’ is strong too. A pleasing two-hander all round.
Paddy Kehoe, RTE
 
This is a gorgeous set – another delicate exploration of brass tonality, restrained improve eloquence and quiet empathy from the New York-based trumpeter Avishai Cohen and his long-time piano partner Yonathan Avishai […] this is a quietly intimate dialogue of course, but almost everything in it glows.
John Fordham, Jazzwise
 
Beide sind emphatische Erzähler, lieben es, am Detail zu arbeiten, ohne dabei das gestalterische Ganze zu vergessen, und können sich vor allem im Sinne einer musikalischen Gesamtwirkung zurücknehmen. Avishai Cohen hat einen hinreißend anschmiegsamen Trompetenton bei strahlender Klarheit, Yonathan Avishai ist ein pianistisch romantischer Reduktionist in ferner Nachfolge von Fred Hersch. Beide im Duo in Lugano vor den Mikrophonen von ECM ist ein melodischer Genuss, ein wohlwollend aussdrucksstarkes Kammerspiel zweier Musiker, die sich umranken, zuspielen, vertrauen.
Ralf Dombrowski, Stereoplay
 
Avishai’s classically-trained touch on the keyboard combines with Cohen’s plush, full-bodied lines to create an atmosphere of tasteful melody that’s almost sensual. Cohen’s ‘The Opening’ (which does indeed open the record) and Avishai’s ‘Two Lines’ stand as perfect examples. As the only two originals on the record, it stands to reason they would, and they sound as natural and relaxed as you would expect from two people who’ve made music together for thirty years. Even better is a take on John Coltrane’s ‘Crescent’ that caresses the original melody like someone stroking a pet’s hair for the last time, savoring the sensation with almost exquisite melancholy. […]  The duo ends the record with music from their homeland. Composed by Israeli national treasure Sasha Argov, ‘Shir Eyes’ pays tribute to their country of origin with a soulful, dignified reading, putting just the right amount of emotion into each keyboard stroke and trumpet blurt. By visiting the catalog of one of their country’s most beloved composers, Cohen and Avishai bring the record back to where they started. More about the pair’s inspirations than their own talent, ‘Playing The Room’ demonstrates that heritage comes not only from national origin, but also a lifetime of discovery.
Michael Toland, Rock & Roll Globe
 
Auf ‘Playing The Room’ hören Cohen und Avishai in ihrem Programm nun darauf, was der Raum ihnen zu sagen hat. Der spricht: Nehmt euch den Platz, den ihr braucht, lasst euch Zeit, überstürzt nichts. Und so wird man Zeuge, wie sich die beiden Schulfreunde umsichtig und informiert durch die Jazzgeschichte bewegen […] Um dann schließlich auf wundersame Weise bei sich selbst anzukommen. Mit krummen Rhythmen und nahöstlichen Melismen wird aus Stevie Wonders ‘Sir Duke’ eine ähnlich fruchtbar in der Geschichte Israels verwurzelte Weise wie der Albumabschluss. ‘Shir Eres’, das Wiegenlied des israelischen Komponisten Sasha Argov, bringt die Qualität aller Beteiligten noch einmal zum Vorschein: Cohens gleichermaßen lyrisch warmes wie vollmundig robustes Trompetenspiel, Avishais sensibles Orchestrieren von Melodie, Puls und Harmonik – und die Poesie des Raums.
Josef Engels, Rondo
 
Ganz dem Titel entsprechend und passend zur klangästhetischen Ambition, für die Manfred Eicher und sein ECM-Label zurecht gerühmt werden, handelt es sich beim Vortrag der neun Kompositionen um ein Paradebeispiel der musikalischen Intimität. […] Gleichzeitig ist innerhalb der harmonischen und melodischen Verläufe eine Abenteuerlust zu verspüren, die sich vor allem in der Aleatorik äußert und somit das fragile und menschliche Moment herbeiführt. Der Sturm versteckt sich hier in der Ruhe.
Friedrich Kunzmann, Concerto
 
This is an absolutely delightful album, that is a pure joy from beginning to end. Full of surprises that ensure the attention does not wander as the duo spin out their stories in the most melodic and engaging manner. The format also enables us to hear at close quarters both players out of their usual contexts, thus giving a new perspective on the work of the trumpeter and pianist, and also gives a good indication as to how they have grown artistically and laying out some of their influences for us to scrutinize. […] Both play with an uncompromising command of the idiom, and the pianist is never short of something profound to say whether in his solos or in support of Cohen’s deeply concentrated and focused lines. The trumpeter plays with a warm and expressive open trumpet sound that cuts through allowing his cleanly articulated phrases to make their mark on the music, while his muted horn brings a gentle and fragile melodicism to proceedings. A departure for both musicians and ECM, this is a most welcome release.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
 
Après deux compositions originales – ‘The Opening’résonnant d’ échos anciens programmatiques – le duo s’empare des œuvres de Glorieux prédécesseurs Coltrane, Ellington, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ornette Coleman, Milt Jackson, Stevie Wonder et Sasha Aargov, non pas pour glisser sur des effets faciles ou reconnaissables, mai spour faire resplendir une certaine idée du calme, de la songerie, dans des habits sonores qui ne dédaignent ni les étoffes anciennes aux moires un peu trembles, ni les coupes plus sobres ou plus amples, aux silhouettes finement dessinées.
Boris Senff, Tribune de Genève
 
Als Duo hat ihr Spiel etwas wahrhaft symbiotisches; exemplarisch etwa in ‘Two Lines’, aber auch in vielen anderen Momenten dieses Albums. Die beiden verbeugen sich hier unter anderem vor Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Milt Jackson und Abdullah Ibrahim und überführen deren Musik so sensibel wie sicher in ihren eigenen Klangkosmos.
Janis Obodda, HiFi Stars
 
So klingt es, wenn zusammenkommt, was längst füreinander bestimmt war. Wenn der Trompeter Avishai Cohen und Pianist Yonathan Avishai sich auf das Wagnis eines Duos einlassen, so spürt man sofort das immense Vertrauen in die integrativen Fähigkeiten des jeweils anderen […] Auf ‘Playing The Room’ spielen sie tatsächlich nur in den Raum hinein, lassen alles Beiwerk beiseite und konzentrieren sich auf das Wesentliche: neun Stücke, aus deren Gestalt, Melodien, Harmonien und Momenten der Stille beide ihre Vision der Jazzgeschichte entwerfen. Traumhaft!
Reinhard Köchl, Augsburger Allgemeine
 
Superbe conversation entre deux musiciens d’Israël, le trompettiste qui vit à New York et le pianist qui s’est établi en France. On l’a dit: leur concert à Flagey pour les 50 ans d’ECM fut une merveille, un instant de grȃce et de Bonheur, un des meilleurs concerts que j’aire jamais vu. L’ambiance de concert, c’est toujours particulier, mais le disque retransmit très bien cette complicité […] Un de ces albums qu’on ne replace pas immédiatement dans sa discothèque tant on a envie de l’écouter, de l’ècouter encore et de vibrer.  
Jean-Claude Vantroyen, Le Soir Mad
Playing The Room bears testimony to the long musical friendship of Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai. They began to explore jazz as teenagers in Tel Aviv, and have continued to play together over many years, with Yonathan recently making important contributions to Avishai’s group albums on ECM. Their first duo recording begins with music composed by the trumpeter and by the pianist and concludes with a touching interpretation of Israeli composer Alexander Argov’s cradle song “Shir Eres”. Along the way, Avishai and Yonathan improvise – freely, playfully, soulfully – on themes from jazz tradition. And, as the album titles implies, they also invite the recording space, the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, to be part of the sound, making full use of its resonant acoustic properties in a performance with the intimacy and focus of chamber music.
 
The original impetus for the album came from a casual comment of Manfred Eicher’s, made during the recording of Yonathan Avishai’s trio recording Joys and Solitudes in Lugano in February 2018: “Avishai [Cohen] should play this room”, the producer remarked. Within a few weeks a duo session, to test the implications of this, was spontaneously scheduled. The nature of Cohen’s albums Into The Silence and Cross My Palm with Silver, with their wide dynamic range and sometimes strongly-stressed rhythm, had called for a different kind of recording set-up, in which bass and drums could be isolated when necessary, and Studios La Buissonne near Marseilles proved a good choice for the challenges of that music. The more conversational qualities of the trumpet-piano duo, however, could grow and glow in the wood-walled recital room of Lugano.
 
The question of what to play was almost secondary. Yonathan Avishai and Avishai Cohen have a shared history of 30 years of musical interaction. Yonathan puts it more simply: “We’ve been playing together forever.” They attended the same junior high school in Israel, and Yonathan had made music already in ensembles with Cohen’s siblings, saxophonist Yuval and clarinettist Anat, before it became apparent that the pianist and the trumpeter had a special musical connection, one which has deepened with the passing of time, as they have honed their improvisational rapport. Playing The Room then is the dialogue of friends. Sharing ideas in the music, offering individual statements, reflecting on jazz history as well as personal associations. And working with the sound of the room: Avishai allows the middle and lower registers of the trumpet, in particular, to sing with a golden, burnished glow – in general, bearing out The Boston Globe’s description of him as “a trumpeter of rare poise and lyricism.” Meanwhile, with a personal style simultaneously robust and modest, both modern and anchored in the blues, Yonathan Avishai alludes to the some of the masters whose work continues to resonate. “His solos”, noted Downbeat recently, are “spacious, unhurried, lovely, sounding as if he’s in no rush to prove himself.”
“Since I’m playing Avishai’s music in his quartet which is a whole journey in itself and since I have my trio as a context for my ideas, neither of us felt that the duo recording should primarily be about us as writers,” says Yonathan Avishai. “We each brought along one tune [Avishai Cohen’s “The Opening”, and Yonathan’s “Two Lines”], and these were the first things recorded. After that, the sequence of pieces is fairly close to the order in which we played the music in Lugano and it has to do with energies that we really like, and composers we like, in jazz and other idioms. We’ve always played some of Ornette’s music, for instance: ‘Dee Dee’ is a tune we’ve played for many years, and in fact we often quote it when improvising. We’ve always liked Ellington of course, and Abdullah Ibrahim and so on, and certain things came out. Almost everything was a first take.”
 
The idea of including Yonathan’s arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s Ellington homage “Sir Duke” arose as indirect tribute to Don Cherry who had incorporated part of the chorus of the tune in the piece “Colemanwonder” on the first Codona album (1978) with Collin Walcott and Nana Vasconcelos. Almost a solo piano piece in the present interpretation, Cohen’s trumpet floats in gently in the final moments.
 
Adding Sasha Argov’s “Shir Eres” at the end of the album brings us full circle back to Israel. Argov (1914-1995) counts as one of the country’s most important and prolific composers, his wide-ranging œuvre including more than a thousand songs written to the words of Israeli poets.
 
Recorded in September 2018, and produced by Manfred Eicher, Playing The Room is available as both audiophile vinyl album and compact disc.
 
Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai take the music of Playing The Room on the road in November and December. The duo appears at the ECM 50 Festival at Flagey Brussels, on November 23, and other dates include Moods, Zürich (December 10), Philharmonie, Cologne (December 12), Sendesaal, Bremen (December 13), Bimhuis, Amsterdam (December 14).
 
For further information about the touring activities of Avishai Cohen and Yonathan Avishai, visit www.ecmrecords.com, www.avishaicohenmusic.com, and www.yonathan-avishai.com
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 February 29 Le Taquin Toulouse, France
2024 March 01 Jazz MDA Tarbes, France
2024 March 02 Jamboree Barcelona, Spain
2024 March 03 Sunset Girona, Spain
2024 March 04 Café Central Madrid, Spain
2024 March 05 Café Central Madrid, Spain
2024 March 06 Jimmy Glass Valencia, Spain
2024 March 08 Unterfahrt Munich, Germany
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