Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Avishai Cohen feat. Abraham Rodriguez Jr, Iroko, Naïve ***1/2

Fascinating rhythm: drum, bass, conga - chant along why not? Jazz bass icon Avishai Cohen teams up with conguero-vocalist Abraham Rodriguez Jr to pay tribute to the Yoruba deities - an Iroko is a tree living troll. A beat feat and tumble of …

Published: 16 May 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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Fascinating rhythm: drum, bass, conga - chant along why not? Jazz bass icon Avishai Cohen teams up with conguero-vocalist Abraham Rodriguez Jr to pay tribute to the Yoruba deities - an Iroko is a tree living troll.

A beat feat and tumble of infectious rhythm it turns out to be pretty good overall although less compelling is the belt it out take on 'Fly Me To The Moon'. More positively the approach certainly works better on James Brown classic 'It's A Man's Man's Man's World'. Cohen is one of the world's best jazz bassists. Fact. And so anything he does is interesting and this is no different given there is no diminution in the quality of his work and the variety the Israeli keeps coming up with. Here the latin departure suits Cohen well given his long interest in the area. Hernacio “El Negro” Hernandez, trumpeter Diego Urcola, saxophonist Yosvany Terry, percussionist Jose Angel and Spanish singer Virginia Alves are some of the ace players also involved. It is also, a factor that enhances the enjoyment, fabulously sound engineered.

Avishai Cohen, top left, and Abraham Rodriguez Jr, photo: via Stilletto

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Steve Banks, Emboldened, Stoney Lane ***1/2

If you subscribe to the theory that there has been a shift more towards progressively swinging modern mainstream jazz in recent years, in Canada and the States issued by labels such as Cellar Live, Smoke Sessions and Posi-Tone, in the UK less …

Published: 16 May 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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If you subscribe to the theory that there has been a shift more towards progressively swinging modern mainstream jazz in recent years, in Canada and the States issued by labels such as Cellar Live, Smoke Sessions and Posi-Tone, in the UK less obviously so but often to be found on labels like Jellymould Jazz, Whirlwind and here Birmingham's Stoney Lane, then relative newcomer guitarist Steve Banks with his quintet fits right in.

What that means in practice involves a twist. And while this UK band recording in a Birmingham studio can sound quite American idiomatically the tenor saxophone, guitar, piano, bass, drums combo develops a bittersweet pathos sometimes that reveals its local character.

Pianist Rebecca Nash - reviewed live on marlbank last month during an appearance with singer Sara Colman, bassist Henrik Jensen and saxist Trish Clowes - plays a big role in clearly marshalling the rhythm section centred sometimes on guitar sometimes on piano while the ever nimble and agile guitarist Banks does not shy away from exploring in depth the themes shaped by his 'Emboldened Suite.'

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Henrik Jensen, l-r, Sam Crockatt, Steve Banks, Rebecca Nash, Mark Whitlam. Photo: via Dynamic

Nash with her lead notes on 'Fear' opens up the harmonies and adds another layer enhanced by the bass so deliciously by Jensen. If you call something a suite it sounds like classical terminology. But there isn't any classical crossover here at all. In the main theme of 'Unity' drummer Mark Whitlam - known for his work with Michelson Morley - hustles the band alone and as so often the bluesy sax of Sam Crockatt does a lot of the main lifting. Crockatt can sound like Mark Lockheart at times (no bad tendency, that) and digs deep into chorus upon chorus of variations on the theme set up by the confines of the tune in question. The final piece is like a rewrite of a couple of pieces you'd hear on an album like Secret Story from the 1990s. A strong group effort Emboldened is out on Friday. Album track 'Unity' is streaming