Track of the day: 'Erzeben Strasse'

Right up our strasse which is not as rude as it sounds. From Quintet East out on vinyl next month on the Finnish We Jazz label. Bassist Antti Lötjönen makes his label debut along with his Bullhorn bandmate Verneri Pohjola on trumpet reversing the …

Published: 15 Mar 2020. Updated: 2 years.

Right up our strasse which is not as rude as it sounds. From Quintet East out on vinyl next month on the Finnish We Jazz label. Bassist Antti Lötjönen makes his label debut along with his Bullhorn bandmate Verneri Pohjola on trumpet reversing the roles of leader and sideman, Mikko Innanen and Jussi Kannasteon are on saxophone and Joonas Riippa plays the drums. The absorbing 'Erzeben Strasse' is a Lötjönen composition and has a progressive, swinging life force to it. Yes it is streets ahead of a good deal of tracks that belong in the same bracket because of the intuitive sense of togetherness all the bandmates display and the way the tune actually tells a story whose plot is a moveable feast in the ear of the beholder.

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Avishai Cohen, Big Vicious

As discussed last month when the first lead-off track was released now's the time for Avishai Cohen. However, like so many other artists the spectre of Coronavirus means having to cancel some upcoming tour dates. Drat. However this album coming out …

Published: 15 Mar 2020. Updated: 2 years.

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As discussed last month when the first lead-off track was released now's the time for Avishai Cohen. However, like so many other artists the spectre of Coronavirus means having to cancel some upcoming tour dates. Drat. However this album coming out at the end of March is for both a short term replacement and for the long haul.

The Israeli trumpeter's Big Vicious could not be more different to his work with Kandace Springs who he has guested beautifully with recently. However that appearance shows how he can come in from the edgier redoubts of the avant garde to commute to the bright lights of the commercial big city sound without selling out.

Big Vicious both the name of the album and his band was recorded in the south of France last summer. Guitarist Uzi Ramirez, bass guitarist Yonatan Albalak, drummer Aviv Cohen and drummer/synth/programmer Ziv Ravitz are also on the record. The band is the thing after all.

A very hip sound a world away from designer lo-fi designer jazz you hear buffering away all around at the moment. While the mood on 'Hidden Chamber' is bleak somehow there is a sense of hope. 'King Kutner' is an outlier more a blues-rock number and comes complete with an anthemic sense to it as the guitar accompaniment goes into a driving routine.

'Moonlight Sonata' rather than a classical novelty offers a pristine take on Beethoven initially before the bend and wooze of a Chris Isaak-type sound starts interjecting but Cohen keeps it respectful; 'Teardrop' has been covered a lot in recent years, still the best version is by Brad Mehldau live in Vienne. This is more than OK. It is suprising how tiny and lonely Cohen can make his trumpet sound. The bass sound is a treat and the sonic production sizzles with vitality. Cohen can conjure up several characters on his trumpet, possessing the skill of providing personality to different tunes like an actor might losing themselves in the part to become an otherness.

'The Things You Tell Me' again flirts with Americana, a significant element to the record as it turns out, probably the most overt choice in an album that wears several hats. 'This Time It’s Different' begun by a drum roll then goes dancey before the electronica flourishes and then a pleasingly futuristic wash to the ensemble sound. When Cohen solos here it is brassier than you expect and more jazz in a bebop sense. He can turn on and turn off that tap but it is mostly turned off.

The ballad 'Teno Neno' dabbles with dystopia and the overdubs are cleverly a presence in their own right on what is a deeply stirring album. 'The Cow & The Calf' weaves a woozy line in the haze of treated guitar and yet again Cohen manages to find a different character in the voicings he choices. 'Intent' at the end is a dialogue of sorts between guitar and trumpet taking the heat out of the air.

Some fans may be looking for a more avant garde Cohen. They won't find it here. What they will find is a big world record not one stuck in arcane jazz history or a lonely bespoke niche that only he occupies. It is also stuffed with great material. Big Vicious have been around six years and are now based back in Israel after a while in the US. The band actually sound quite American because of all the Americana hints and nods and certainly belong in their outlook to the current decade rather than the 1950s as so many aspire to time travel to. Maybe it will also make a star of Uzi Ramirez? He certainly deserves to be better known at least. Remember his name. Stephen Graham