BY MICHAEL TOLAND
After playing sidekick to trumpeter Avishai Cohen since they were teens, Israeli-French pianist Yonathan Avishai steps out on his own with Joys and Solitudes.
Like his erstwhile companion, Avishai keeps it cool, rarely indulging in any kind of fiery exchanges with sidemen Yoni Zelnik (bass) and Donald Kontomanou (drums). But also, like his boss, he flaunts a subtle sense of swing, keeping the tracks percolating even as they stay at a sedate volume. So while he and the band stay in the chamber jazz wheelhouse on “Joy” and the bluesy “Les Pianos De Brazzaville,” there’s an energy driving them that would make them problematic for coffee shop playlists. “Lya” and the feature-length “When Things Fall Apart” bring forth obvious classical training, but adapt it to small combo jazz by emphasizing both the melodic attack and the swinging rhythm. The pianist goes solo on the whimsical “Tango,” inspired by, but not an homage to, its titular dance, and nods to an obvious influence by opening the record with “Mood Indigo,” one of Duke Ellington’s most famous compositions and one that speaks to Avishai’s particular touch on the keyboard. Avishai and company hit their peak with “Song For Anny,” a masterful composition that finds the performers putting their own spin on jazz tradition.
After so many years supporting his old pal, it’s clear that Avishai was ready to step out on his own, and Joys and Solitudes proves it.
DOWNLOAD: “Song For Anny,” “Les Pianos De Brazzaville,” “Tango”